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BOISE -- Officials are hoping a program that offers highly-trained medical professionals a way to lessen their student loan debt will be enough to bring them to Idaho's remote state psychiatric hospitals.

A bill that passed the House Health and Welfare Committee Tuesday aims to tackle chronic understaffing at the facilities in Orofino and Blackfoot.

A national shortage of psychiatrists is exacerbated by the hurdle of getting people to move to the sites' isolated locations.

If the bill passes, state hospitals would help physicians pay back a portion of their student loan debt after they had worked there for at least one year.

The measure's $170,000 yearly price tag has already been approved, and the bill cleared the Senate with a unanimous vote last week.

Now, it heads to House floor debate.

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