National Loan Forgiveness Program Expands to Include SUD Sites
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is currently accepting provider applications to become a National Health Service Corps (NHSC)-approved site. New this year, the NHSC has added addiction treatment facilities to the list of eligible sites for loan forgiveness, providing an incentive for professionals to seek jobs at these facilities. This move represents a change to the NHSC program that the National Council has been advocating for on behalf of its members. The NHSC provides loan forgiveness to over 10,000 eligible health care professionals across the country in exchange for their service in underserved communities.
NHSC ADDICTION TREATMENT EXPANSION
As part of the recent omnibus budget deal, the NHSC received $105 million to expand the NHSC Loan Repayment Program awards to facilities that expand and improve access to quality opioid and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment in rural and underserved areas. Based on the new NHSC guidance, three types of SUD treatment providers are eligible for NHSC participation in FY 2018:
- Opioid Treatment Programs or OTPs (methadone clinics)
- Office-Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT) programs (office-based buprenorphine programs)
- Non-opioid outpatient SUD treatment facilities (sites that provide general SUD treatment services)
Note that to qualify as an NHSC site, the facility must be located in a federally-designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).
To apply to become an NHSC-approved site, SUD providers will need to submit the following documentation:
- OTPs must provide a current SAMHSA-issued OTP certificate, or documentation verifying SAMHSA OTP certification.
- OBOTs must provide documentation of services provided onsite (e.g., brochure, website documentation, policy document outlining services provided), and verification of onsite medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in the form of an attestation from the site CEO or Medical Director that the site offers MAT and the size of MAT patient panel for the most recent 6 months. A sample attestation form can be found on Appendix A of the SUD Expansion/New Site Application Instructions here.
- Non-opioid outpatient SUD treatment facilities must provide documentation of services provided on-site including, for example, an operating certificate, brochure, website documentation, or policy document outlining services provided.
All three SUD provider types must also submit a Behavioral Health Checklist confirming that all of the following services are provided onsite (not through affiliation): Screening and Assessment, Treatment Plan, Care Coordination, Diagnosis and Therapeutic Services (psychiatric medication, chronic disease management, and Substance Use Disorder Treatment (defined as a broad range of evidence-based or promising SUD treatments)). The Behavioral Health Checklist also lists “optional services” that can be provided onsite or through affiliation. For any services not provided onsite, an affiliation agreement should be provided.
The current NHSC application cycle is from June 19th – August 14th, 2018. Any questions regarding the application process should be directed to your HRSA NHSC Division of Regional Operations Point of Contact.
As the site expansion is based on a one-time funding allocation, there is no guarantee that SUD treatment facilities will be able to participate in NHSC beyond this year. However, the National Council has been actively working to advance legislation through Congress that would create loan forgiveness opportunities for SUD professionals. The first of such bills, the Strengthening the Addiction Treatment Workforce Act (S. 1453), closely mirrors HRSA’s new guidance to allow addiction treatment facilities to participate in the NHSC. The second, the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act (H.R. 5102), would create a separate student loan forgiveness program specifically for SUD providers; this bill is currently included in pending House and Senate opioid packages. Stay tuned to the Capitol Connector for the latest on the progress of these bills.