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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

HRSA Releases Information About SUD Workforce Program

January 3, 2019 | Addictions | Workforce | Comments
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The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is currently accepting clinician applications for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program. The program offers up to $75,000 in student loan repayment for clinicians who work at least three years providing substance use treatment at an approved site. Applicants that have a DATA-2000 waiver to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder, work in an opioid treatment program or are licensed or certified in substance use interventions, will receive priority. Applications will be accepted on or before February 21, 2019.

ELIGIBLE CLINICIANS

The program offers health care clinicians the opportunity to have their qualifying student loans repaid in exchange for serving either full-time or part-time at an NHSC-approved SUD site. Eligible disciplines and specialties include:

  • Physicians
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Physician assistants who are eligible to administer Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
  • Behavioral health professionals
  • Substance use disorder counselors
  • Registered nurses
  • Pharmacists

NHSC ADDICTION TREATMENT EXPANSION

To qualify for loan forgiveness, an applicant must work at a NHSC-approved site. Over the last two years, the NHSC has received $225 million to expand the Loan Repayment Program to clinicians and facilities (referred to as sites) that expand and improve access to quality opioid and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment in rural and underserved areas.

HRSA first expanded the list of sites eligible to apply to participate in NHSC to include addiction treatment organizations in 2018. Note that there is an application process for sites to become NHSC-approved. The application cycle is offered on annual basis; the last application cycle for new sites to participate closed on August 14, 2018. However, if your organization is interested in participating in the NHSC in the future, please see our earlier Capitol Connector coverage for details about the application process. The National Council will notify members when the next NHSC site application cycle opens.

Based on the 2019 NHSC SUD Workforce LRP guidance, the following sites can participate:

  • SAMHSA-certified outpatient treatment programs (OTPs)
  • Office-based opioid treatment facilities (OBOTs)
  • Non-opioid substance use disorder treatment facilities (SUD treatment facilities)
  • Federally Qualified Health Care Centers (FQHCs)
  • Rural Health Clinics (RHCs)
  • American Indian Health facilities
  • FQHC Look-Alikes
  • State or federal correctional facilities
  • Critical Access Hospitals
  • Community health centers

*Note that to quality as a NHSC site, the facility must be located in a federally-designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).

PRIORITY

Applicants from a NHSC-approved SUD treatment facility may receive priority if they:

  • Have a DATA 2000 waiver;
  • Serve in an opioid treatment program; or
  • Are certified in substance use disorder interventions, such as master’s–level substance use disorder counselors.

For more information about the NHSC Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program, including guidance on how to apply, visit the program’s website here.

NHSC ADVOCACY

The NHSC’s expansion to include addiction treatment providers represents a change that the National Council has been advocating for on behalf of its members. Unfortunately, as the NHSC expansion is based on a discretionary funding allocation, there is no guarantee that SUD treatment facilities will be able to participate in NHSC in future years. However, the National Council has been actively working to advance legislation through Congress, entitled the Strengthening the Addiction Treatment Workforce Act (S. 1453), that would permanently allow addiction treatment facilities to participate in the NHSC.

Additionally, the National Council secured the passage of the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act (H.R. 5102), which creates a separate federal student loan forgiveness program, specifically for SUD providers, as part of the recently-enacted 2018 Opioid Package. Stay tuned to the Capitol Connector for the latest on the progress of these bills.