OLYMPIA, Wash. - Alyssa Hagmann's not sure how long it's going to take her to pay off her college loans.
She's been paying for her undergraduate and master's degrees since she graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in 1995.
"I think I'm just under $60,000 now," said Hagmann, a behavioral health specialist who works with expectant mothers at the Community Health Care clinic in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood.
Under a proposal from state House Democrats, loans for mental health counselors like Hagmann, social workers and psychologists would qualify for loan repayment plans.
Participants would have to commit to working for three years at low-income clinics.
Hagmann said she and her peers are not the only ones who would benefit.
She said offering incentives for counselors to work in community clinics would help attract and retain qualified professionals who can earn more in private practices.
Hagmann also believes it would keep patients from ending up in emergency rooms.
"If we can connect to a patient pre-crisis, when they are meeting with their doctors," said Hagmann, "It keeps them out of the ER with a panic attack or a psychotic episode."
A similar proposal passed last year, offering loan payoffs to doctors who agreed to work in communities considered under served.