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

State officials are currently accepting applications for a program to help people who care for people with substance use disorders pay off student loan debt.

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

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

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

The average amount of student loan debt in the Commonwealth topped $39,000 in 2020, with 64% of Pennsylvania college graduates reporting having student loan debt, according to a 2021 report report from the Institute for College Success and Access, a research organization based in Washington DC.

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

President Joe Biden, who campaigned on the cancellation of student debt, would currently be considering student loan forgiveness for individual borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year.

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

Practitioners must have at least two years of experience in the field of substance use disorders and must be able to commit to an additional two years in the field to be eligible for funding. Eligible people can claim up to $100,000 under the reimbursement program.

Funding for the program comes from the Opioid Settlement Fund and the Commonwealth Medical Marijuana Program Fund, according to the department.

Applications can be submitted in lineand the deadline to apply is May 26.

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