Advocacy Alert: Spanberger, Rogers Work Across Party Lines to Recruit & Retain More Treatment Providers for Substance Use Disorder & Mental Health Care
May 18, 2023
In 2021, a key loan repayment program for addiction & recovery providers received more than 3,000 applications, but the program could only support 255 students.
In an effort to save more lives and increase access to treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health resources, U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Hal Rogers (R-KY-05) introduced a bipartisan bill reauthorizing and increasing funding for the Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery (STAR) Loan Repayment Program (LRP).
The STAR LRP program repays student loans up to $250,000 for participants who agree to serve as a full-time SUD treatment provider in underserved areas. In 2021, more than 3,000 applications were received — but the program only had enough funding to support 255 students.
The Spanberger-Rogers bill would reauthorize the STAR LRP for five years through fiscal year 2028. Additionally, it would increase the authorized funding amount from $25 million to $75 million and make the loan payments tax exempt — much like the Perkins Loan program.
“During our neighbors’ darkest moments, Virginia’s treatment and recovery professionals are there for them — they’re there in the middle of the night, they’re there when hope is almost gone, and they’re there for the long road to recovery. These men and women deserve to be appreciated and fairly rewarded for their critical work,” said Spanberger, leader of the bipartisan Summer Barrow Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Act — which was signed into law last year. “I’m proud to work with Congressman Rogers to make sure those who are struggling with addiction and recovery can be connected with these incredible men and women. By protecting STAR LRP and gradually increasing its funding, we can make sure that more Virginians — and more Americans across the country — have access to the help and support they need.”
“It is heartbreaking to hear about individuals who do not have access to treatment providers when they are desperate for help. This program aims to pave the pathway for more students to consider the life changing impact they can have in SUD and mental health care,” said Rogers, a long-time champion in combatting the opioid epidemic. “The program has been a huge success since we launched it in 2018, but the demand continues to grow. This bill not only protects the program from expiring later this year, but also increases funding to support more students in the program. I’m honored to introduce this important legislation with my colleague across the aisle, Congresswoman Spanberger, as we work together to drive down overdose deaths by ensuring more individuals can get the help they need, when they need it.”
In 2022, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) projected a shortage of more than 24,000 behavioral health providers by 2030.
The Spanberger-Rogers bill has received strong support and endorsements from more than 20 organizations — including the American Society of Addiction Medicine, National Behavioral Health Association of Providers, Faces and Voices of Recovery, National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine, Council on Recovery, American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, American College of Academic Addiction Medicine (ACAAM), American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and many more.
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