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Gov. Wolf: Opioid Crisis Medical Practitioners Can Now Get Help with Repaying Education Loans

Thursday, May 16, 2019 @ 12:05 AM

Posted by Aly Delp

20190325-governor-wolf-walgreens-opioidsHARRISBURG, Pa. – Governor Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that the state will allocate $5 million in federal funding to a loan repayment program for health care practitioners providing medical and behavioral health care and treatment for substance use disorder and opioid use disorder in areas with high opioid-use and a shortage of health care practitioners.

“It’s imperative that everyone suffering from the disease of addiction is receiving quality care where they can access it, in their communities,” Gov. Wolf said. “By removing some of the burden of debt for medical training, we are incentivizing these professionals to practice where they are most needed.”

There are 30 highly impacted counties where opioid use disorder is most prevalent; 15 rural, including Fayette, Lawrence, Blair, Greene, Cambria, Armstrong, Venango, Mercer, Washington, Mifflin, Cameron, Clearfield, Crawford, Indiana and Butler; and 15 urban, including Philadelphia, Westmoreland, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Beaver, Allegheny, Erie, Delaware, Bucks, Dauphin, Berks, York, Lebanon, Lehigh, and Lancaster.

While applications are not limited to these counties, practitioners in these counties could receive additional points when being considered for the loan repayment program. Applications are available through June 3.

“The opioid crisis is the largest public health crisis in decades, and we continue to need more professionals who can assist in addressing this crisis,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “This funding helps us ensure that those affected by the crisis living in both underserved areas and areas hit particularly hard have access to primary medical and behavioral health care services to treat their disorder. We want to make sure that all Pennsylvanians with the disease of addiction have the ability to be treated at a location convenient to them.”

The funding comes from the $55.9 million Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) grant meant to help states increase access to medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorder, reduce opioid overdose related deaths through prevention, treatment and recovery, and to reduce unmet treatment need.

“We are at a critical crossroad in the opioid crisis,” said Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs Jen Smith. “To date, we have focused on keeping individuals alive by reducing overdose deaths and making naloxone readily available. Now we are starting to shift some of our focus to the quality of treatment individuals receive. A key component to this is ensuring there is an adequate number of doctors available to treat individuals battling substance use disorder. By doing so, we hope to prevent individuals from cycling through the treatment system.”

Practitioners are required to have already served two years treating substance use disorder and opioid addiction. Applicants are obligated to commit to providing services for at least two additional years at a substance use disorder approved site: a licensed drug and alcohol treatment facility, a community-based primary care or behavioral health center, a PA State Correctional Institution or a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facility in Pennsylvania. Recipients may be from a number of disciplines.

This SAMSHA funding complements the state’s existing loan repayment program, which is for primary care physicians. For fiscal year 2018-19, the state’s budget allocated $2.6 million for the Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program through a combination of state and federal funds.


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