Clark, Rogers lead federal effort to reduce the shortage of substance use disorder treatment professionals
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY) have introduced H.R. 5102, the bipartisan Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act. The legislation will improve access to desperately needed treatment for the millions of Americans struggling with a substance use disorder. 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. The Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act 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. The program will be available to a wide range of direct care providers, including physicians, registered nurses, social workers, and other behavioral health professionals.
“We can’t just stand by while parents bury their children because they were forced to wait weeks or months for lifesaving treatment,” said Clark. “Families in every corner of the country are battling the opioid epidemic, and by encouraging more treatment workers to enter this field, we are giving them a fighting chance. 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.”
“We are working diligently to attack the drug abuse epidemic from every angle, but one glaring gap remains: there simply aren’t enough professionals available to meet the surging need for treatment. Developing this loan repayment program will help bring more medical professionals to the heart of communities most in need,” said Rogers, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. “Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, so we must expand our reach to treat and save those battling addiction.”
To qualify for the program, participants must agree to be employed in a full-time substance use disorder treatment job 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, social worker, recovery coach, or any other role listed in the bill, as well as any additional titles added by the Department of Health and Human Services. 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.
Full text of H.R. 5102 can be found here.