As PA educators across the country prepare students to respond to the national opioid epidemic, PAEA has advocated for the institution of new loan repayment incentives for recent PA graduates to practice in behavioral health capacities.
To this end, the recently signed SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act authorized $25 million annually through 2023 to create a new Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Workforce Loan Repayment Program (LRP) in which PA graduates are eligible to participate. However, the implementation of this program is dependent upon Congress providing the authorized funding in the next budget and appropriations cycle.
Fortunately, in the meantime, there is another similar loan repayment option available for recent graduates. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has announced plans to launch the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) SUD Workforce LRP. Through this program, eligible health professionals, such as PAs, may receive up to $75,000 in graduate loan repayment in exchange for a three-year commitment to provide substance use disorder treatment services at NHSC-approved sites. Program applicants who have received a DATA 2000 waiver upon completing their MAT waiver training will receive priority during the grant award phase.
As part of PAEA’s Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Waiver Training Initiative, we encourage all PA programs to consider offering MAT waiver training opportunities to students. By completing this training, graduates can both expand their existing pool of options in repaying their student loan debt and contribute to the national opioid epidemic response.
If you are interested in learning more about the NHSC SUD Workforce LRP or the loan repayment program authorized by the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, please view the Frequently Asked Questions listed below or contact MAT Project Director John Lopes at jlopes@PAEAonline.org.
NHSC Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program
As a PA, how do I qualify for the NHSC SUD Workforce LRP?
To be eligible for the program, PAs must be working at or have accepted employment at an NHSC SUD Workforce LRP-approved site by the date they apply. Additionally, PAs must meet the qualifying criteria to administer MAT).
What sites are considered to be NHSC SUD Workforce LRP-approved sites?
Any of the following sites, provided that SUD treatment is offered:
• SAMHSA-certified outpatient treatment programs
• Office-based opioid treatment facilities
• Non-opioid substance use disorder treatment facilities
• Federally qualified health care centers (FQHCs)
• Rural health clinics
• American Indian health facilities
• FQHC look-alikes
• State or federal correctional facilities
• Critical access hospitals
• Community health centers
• State or local health departments
• Community outpatient facilities
• Private practices
• School-based clinics
• Mobile units and free clinics
How long is the commitment for the NHSC SUD Workforce LRP program and how much of my loan will be repaid?
Eligible clinicians may receive up to $75,000 in student loan repayment for full-time practice in exchange for a three-year commitment to provide SUD services. For half-time practice, eligible clinicians may receive up to $37,500 in student loan repayment for a three-year service commitment. Half-time practice is not available to those serving under the Private Practice Option.
How can my application receive priority?
You will receive priority if you have a DATA 2000 waiver, serve in an opioid treatment program, or are licensed or certified in substance use disorder interventions, such as a master’s-level SUD counselor.
When can I apply?
NHSC will begin accepting applications later this year. If you are interested in applying, be sure to sign up on their website to receive email updates from HRSA regarding theprogram.
SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act Loan Repayment Program
I understand that the pending SUPPORT for Communities and Patients Act authorize a loan repayment plan for PAs providing SUD services. How do I know if I qualify for loan repayment?
In order to qualify for the SUPPORT Act loan repayment plan, you have to be engaged in full-time “substance use disorder employment,” defined as the direct treatment or recovery support of patients with or in recovery from a substance abuse disorder.
Are there any limits to where the employment opportunity is located?
The treatment site must be located in a mental health professional shortage area or in a county or municipality where the mean overdose death rate is higher than the most recent national average, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Which loans are eligible for repayment?
Almost all federal education loans (Direct Stafford, Perkins, Direct PLUS, Federal Unsubsidized Stafford, or Federal Direct Consolidation Loan) or other federal loan as determined appropriate by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Is there a loan repayment limit associated with this program?
The total amount of payments cannot exceed $250,000.
How long is the employment commitment associated with this program?
This loan repayment program requires a six-year commitment to obtain the maximum benefit. For each year of obligated service, the program pays 1/6 of the principal and interest on each eligible loan that is outstanding on the date you begin service under the program.
How do I apply for the SUPPORT Act loan repayment program?
While the SUPPORT Act authorizes up to $25,000,000 for the program, no monies have been appropriated yet. HRSA will make an announcement when the program starts accepting applications.