DDAP Secretary Jen Smith speaks at UPMC in Pittsburgh on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022 (Photo by UPMC).
More than 280 Pennsylvania-based substance use disorder (SUD) practitioners, including case managers, counselors, licensed social workers, physician assistants, and registered nurses, were awarded nearly $19 million to repay their student loans through a state grant program.
The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs launched the grant initiative in May 2022 to address high turnover rates and shortages of healthcare professionals in the SUD treatment field. It was initially funded for $10 million but was later increased to $19 million.
“Easing the burden of student debt is paramount to helping incentivize SUD professionals to remain in this field, which in turn will benefit some of our loved ones, friends, and neighbors who need SUD services most,” DDAP Secretary Jen Smith said at a press conference Monday. “The Wolf administration remains committed to strengthening the drug and alcohol treatment and case management system across Pennsylvania and this loan repayment program is just one more example of that commitment.”
To be eligible for the grant, candidates who were selected were required to demonstrate a minimum of two prior years of experience in the SUD field as well as agree to a service commitment of two additional years.
Dr. James Latronica, a grant recipient working in addiction medicine services at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital in Pittsburgh, said that the grant funding “is very welcome and much appreciated.”
Latronica also praised the grant program for using funding from the McKinsey Opioid Settlement Fund and Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program Fund to create and award student loan repayment grants to SUD treatment and care providers.
“Helping our substance use workforce with funds from our medical marijuana program and opioid settlement funds is exactly the type of creative efficacious policy making we need,” Latronica said.
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