President Donald Trump signed a bill on October 24th that addresses the opioid crisis and provides forgiveness for student loans of up to $250,000 for substance-use-treatment professionals. The measure, H.R. 6, is titled the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.
To be eligible for the debt-forgiveness program, substance-use-treatment professionals are required to work in a full-time substance-use-treatment position for up to six years in a geographical area with a shortage of mental health workers or an area experiencing a high rate of overdose deaths. The bill clarifies that mental and behavioral health providers participating in the National Health Service Corps can provide care at a school or other community-based setting located in a HPSA as part of their obligated service requirements.
This section of the opioid bill was introduced originally as separate stand-alone legislation by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA). The Rogers-Clark bill was incorporated into a package of measures addressing the opioid crisis that passed the Senate on Oct. 3.
Jobs Eligible for Student-Loan Repayment
Jobs eligible for the student-loan forgiveness program must involve serving in a direct patient-care role, such as work as a therapist, social worker, physician, nurse or any other role listed in the measure, according to a statement released by Rep. Clark. Program participants may serve in a wide range of facilities.
The measure provides flexibility to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to add eligible professions or facilities as the opioid epidemic evolves.
Providing Treatment for More Americans
“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,” Rep. Clark said in a statement. “Communities across the nation are calling on us for solutions and this legislation provides the support needed to facilitate their recovery and health.”
“We've invested billions of dollars in treatment and recovery services, while only 10 percent of Americans with a substance use disorder actually receive treatment, Rep. Rogers said in a statement. “Ninety percent go without treatment. That situation is even more dire in small communities: Far too often, when our rural constituents recognize their addiction, they are not able to find treatment or recovery services anywhere close to home.”
The American Counseling Association joined numerous advocacy groups in supporting this legislation. A summary of the bill signed by the president appears online in the ACA Government Affairs blog.
The Health Resources and Services Administration will work out the details of the student-loan-repayment program and will publish regulations relating to the administration of the program. ACA will monitor the regulations when they are published and keep members informed about this new tuition reimbursement opportunity.