The Lead

State officials launch $10M program to help substance use disorder treatment professionals repay their student loans

By: - May 3, 2022 5:14 pm

Currently, the total outstanding federal student loan debt is $1.7 trillion (Getty Images/The Conversation).

State officials are currently accepting applications for a program aimed at helping the people who care for individuals with substance use disorder repay their outstanding student loan debt.

The Substance Use Disorder Loan Repayment Program, which is being administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, is accepting applications from treatment professionals as well as case management professionals with outstanding student loan debt. 

The $10 million program aims to address ongoing staffing shortages and the high rate of turnover among substance use disorder practitioners by addressing the high costs of education.

“By removing some of the burden of debt associated with the cost of education, we are incentivizing professionals to remain in the substance use disorder treatment field and help Pennsylvanians who need it most,” DDAP Secretary Jen Smith said. 

The average amount of student loan debt in the commonwealth topped $39,000 in 2020, with 64 percent of Pennsylvania’s college graduates reporting that they had student loan debt, according to a 2021 report from the Institute for College Success and Access, a Washington D.C.-based research organization. 

Americans collectively owe more than $1.75 trillion in student loans, according to researchers at the Education Data Initiative. 

President Joe Biden, who campaigned on student debt forgiveness, is currently said to be considering student loan forgiveness for individual borrowers who make less than $125,000 per-year. 

Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Spokesperson Stephany Dugan told the Capital-Star that the program could help between 100 and 200 practitioners repay their student loans in the commonwealth. 

Practitioners must have a minimum of two years of experience in the substance use disorder field, and must be able to commit to two additional years in the field to be eligible for the funding. Eligible individuals can apply for up to $100,000 under the repayment program. 

Funding for the program stems from the Opioid Settlement Fund and the commonwealth’s Medical Marijuana Program Fund, according to the department. 

Applications can be submitted online, and the deadline to apply is May 26. 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.