New HRSA loan repayment program to support treatment of substance use disorders in underserved communities
As an administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), it is my duty to work to improve health care for Americans who are geographically isolated and economically or medically vulnerable.
The opioid crisis poses a serious threat to the public health of our country, and all Americans, whether they live in rural, tribal or urban areas, are at risk. There is more than two million people living with opioid addiction in the United States, and over 130 people die every day opioid-related overdoses.
These people often live in areas of shortage of health professionals (HPSA) where they do not have access to trained clinicians who can provide the necessary treatments and services. This is especially the case in rural communities where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that drug-related deaths are 45% higher, and that rural states are more likely to have higher rates of overdose deaths. HRSA uses the HPSA designations to help prioritize and focus resources on those areas that need them most.
Last December, HRSA’s National Health Service Corps (NHSC) launched the Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Workforce Loan Repayment Program (LRP), a $ 105 million investment to help address the shortage of behavioral health professionals in communities in need. This new program will help Americans living with opioid dependence and other substance use disorders receive the care they need to recover.
While the NHSC Loan Repayment Program (NHSC LRP) focuses on improving accessibility to primary health, dental, and mental / behavioral health providers, the NHSC SUD Workforce LRP is expanding repayment programs loan from HRSA by adding additional disciplines and types of eligible service sites. This expanded program will have a particular impact on the availability of evidence-based treatment for opioid and substance use disorders in rural and other underserved areas across the country.
The deadline for eligible clinicians to apply to the NHSC SUD Workforce LRP is the 21st of February. The awards will be presented later this year.
Workforce initiatives are part of HRSA’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic. Increasingly, we are finding that primary care settings such as HRSA-funded health centers are a gateway to better care for people with substance use disorders.
Last year, the HRSA invested $ 352 million for substance use disorder prevention and treatment, and mental health services in more than 1,200 community health centers. We plan to provide an additional $ 200 million this year to support these efforts.
HRSA also supports collaborations that help integrate behavioral and mental health into primary care. Our subsidies Fund partnerships between academic institutions and health centers, presenting students specializing in the treatment of behavioral health and substance use disorders (SUD) to opportunities in underserved communities. These clinicians are an essential part of the care teams in HRSA-supported health facilities and help improve the capacity of the overall health care delivery system to provide treatment services for SUD.
Finally, the HRSA recognizes that rural populations have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic and face a variety of unique challenges. Last year we awarded $ 19 million in planning grants to reduce opioid overdoses among most at-risk rural populations. Over the next few years, HRSA will invest a total of $ 320 million to support rural communities’ fight against substance use disorders.
The opioid crisis is dire. Studies have shown that no community is immune to this public health problem. We need more behavioral health clinicians across the country, especially in rural, tribal and urban areas. I am proud of the work of HRSA to help end this crisis. You can learn more about our efforts in the federal response at hrsa.gov/opioids.