Wolf addresses shortage of health care practitioners for patients with substance use disorders

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

The Wolf administration announced that the state will allocate another $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 where there is high opioid-use and a shortage of health care practitioners.

The program was introduced by the governor in May.

“Expanding the availability of the loan repayment program helps us continue to ensure providers committed to treating people suffering from substance and opioid use disorder get the support they need to offset education costs and focus on providing care in counties most in need,” Wolf said.

There are 30 highly impacted counties, including Bucks, where opioid use disorder is most prevalent.

Practitioners in these counties could receive additional points when being considered for the loan repayment program.

Applications are available through Jan. 21. Go to health.pa.gov/topics/Health-Planning/Pages/SUD-LRP.aspx.

The funding comes from the $55.9 million Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration State Opioid Response 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 needs.

“The Wolf administration is committed to strengthening the drug and alcohol treatment system throughout all of Pennsylvania,” said Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs Jen Smith. “We are at a critical crossroad in the opioid crisis. 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 Pennsylvania Coordinated Medication Assisted Treatment site, a Center of Excellence, a community-based primary care or behavioral health center, a State Correctional Institution or a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facility in Pennsylvania.

Recipients may be from a number of disciplines. More information is available on the Department of Health’s website: health.pa.gov/topics/Health-Planning/Pages/SUD-LRP.aspx.

This SAMSHA funding complements the state’s existing loan repayment program, which is for primary care physicians. For fiscal year 2019-20, the state’s budget allocated $3 million for the Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program through a combination of state and federal funds.

For more information about the loan repayment program, visit the Department of Health website at health.pa.gov or its Facebook or Twitter pages.