Pennsylvania Bolsters Substance Use Disorder Workforce with $18 Million Student Loan Repayment Program

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HARRISBURG, PA — In a bid to address the escalating need for substance use disorder (SUD) professionals in Pennsylvania, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) recently announced an $18 million investment into a student loan repayment program. This initiative aims to attract and retain practitioners in the fields of SUD treatment, prevention, case management, and recovery support services.

The move comes as Pennsylvania grapples with high turnover rates and a shortage of healthcare professionals specializing in SUD. These challenges have strained employee recruitment and retention efforts, and more crucially, limited access to care for Pennsylvanians seeking SUD treatment and support.

The DDAP’s loan repayment program seeks to alleviate these pressures by incentivizing practitioners to continue providing their services within the Commonwealth. The initiative echoes a similar program launched in 2022 that awarded nearly $19 million in funding to over 270 SUD practitioners, enabling them to repay their student loans.

The program is designed to assist DDAP-licensed drug and alcohol treatment facilities and staff providing Single County Authority (SCA)-funded prevention, case management, and recovery support services. Practitioners at approved practice sites offering SUD treatment, prevention, case management, or recovery support services can also avail of the repayment assistance for their outstanding, qualifying educational loans.

Applications are open until March 1, 2024, and must be submitted via the online application portal. Eligible practitioners are required to commit to delivering SUD treatment, SCA-funded prevention, case management, or recovery support services at an approved practice site for a two-year period. The program opens doors for a wide range of professionals including physicians, psychiatrists, registered nurses, licensed social workers, counselors, case managers, and administrative staff, among others.

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Based on the availability of funding, grant agreements will be awarded to eligible practitioners. Full-time practitioners can apply for an amount up to $75,000, while those meeting half-time practice criteria are eligible for up to $37,500. The award amounts and number of awards will depend on the number of qualifying applications received, the grant assistance requested, and the available grant assistance to be awarded.

The DDAP has prioritized applicants who work in rural areas experiencing SUD workforce shortages and those providing SUD services in counties with underserved minority populations.

This vital funding opportunity is backed by the Opioid Settlement Fund (McKinsey) and Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program Fund, reflecting a comprehensive approach to addressing the state’s SUD challenges.

The DDAP’s initiative promises to strengthen the SUD workforce in Pennsylvania, potentially transforming the landscape of SUD treatment and support in the state. By investing in the professionals on the front lines of this critical healthcare sector, the Commonwealth is taking decisive action to combat substance use disorders and build a healthier future for all Pennsylvanians.

For more information about the grant initiative, visit the Funding Opportunities page on the DDAP website. Questions regarding the grants and the application process should be emailed to RA-DASUDLRP@pa.gov.

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