The Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act, a bipartisan bill cosponsored by Rep. Katherine Clark, D-MA, and Rep. Hal Rogers, R-KY, unanimously passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation is in response to the nationwide opioid epidemic and the shortage of treatment workers that is now preventing those with substance abuse disorder from receiving treatment. The legislation offers student loan repayment of up to $250,000 for participants who agree to work as a substance use disorder treatment professional in areas most in need of their services. Clark’s legislation was one of thirty opioid related bills voted on by the U.S. House, all of which are attempting to alleviate the impact and expansion of the nationwide epidemic. The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate.
“Today, Congress took a major step forward in our fight to combat the opioid crisis,” said Clark. “Every new treatment professional we invest in could mean survival for someone’s child, parent, sibling, or friend who may not have had access to treatment otherwise. Communities across the nation are calling on us for solutions and this legislation provides the support needed to facilitate their recovery and health.”
Clark’s legislation was one of almost 30 opioid-related bills being voted on by the House relating to the nationwide epidemic. Experts report that only 10 percent of the 22 million Americans with a substance use disorder receive treatment. This treatment gap is largely attributed to the shortage of workers in the substance use disorder field.
To qualify for the program, participants must agree to be employed in a full-time substance use disorder treatment position in a high need area for up to six years. That job must involve serving in a direct patient care role and can include serving as a physician, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, social worker, recovery coach, or any other role listed in the bill. Participants may serve in a wide range of facilities, so long as they are located in an area with a shortage of mental health professionals or a high rate of drug overdose deaths. The bill gives the secretary of Health and Human Services the flexibility to add eligible professions or facilities as the epidemic evolves.
Numerous medical, substance abuse and advocacy groups have endorsed the legislation.