Medical marijuana, Opioid settlement money to go towards substance abuse docs, nurses’ student loan forgiveness

29 January 2024- Today, Governor Shapiro and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) announced that $18 million is available through the substance use disorder (SUD) student loan repayment program to assist practitioners within the SUD treatment, prevention, case management and recovery support services workforce.

High rates of turnover and shortages of health care professionals have placed increased pressure on employee recruitment and retention, as well as access to care for Pennsylvania residents seeking SUD treatment and supports. Through this SUD loan repayment program, DDAP will provide loan repayment opportunities as an incentive to retain SUD practitioners willing to continue providing services within the Commonwealth. This is critical work to address an important workforce shortage in Pennsylvania.

“We need to help the helpers and healers,” said DDAP Secretary Dr. Latika Davis-Jones. “This program will help to relieve some of the burden of debt associated with education costs. Burnout is a very real issue in the substance use disorder field, and this is one of the Shapiro Administration’s answers to incentivizing professionals to stay in this field and to continue providing services and treatment for Pennsylvanians who need it most.”

Under a similar program in 2022, more than 270 SUD practitioners including case managers, counselors, licensed social workers, physician assistants, and registered nurses were awarded funding totaling almost $19 million to go towards repaying their student loans.

The SUD loan repayment program is designed to help DDAP-licensed drug and alcohol treatment facilities as well as staff providing Single County Authority (SCA)-funded prevention, case management, and recovery support services in the Commonwealth. The program also allows practitioners who provide SUD treatment, prevention, case management and/or recovery support services for SUD at an approved practice site to receive repayment assistance for their outstanding, qualifying educational loans.

Applications must be submitted via the online application portal by March 1, 2024. Eligible practitioners must have the capacity to continue to deliver SUD treatment, SCA-funded prevention, case management or recovery support services at an approved practice site(s) for a two-year period. Qualifying professions include, but are not limited to:

·       Physicians

·       Psychiatrists

·       Registered Nurses

·       Certified Registered Nurse Practitioners

·       Certified Addictions Registered Nurses 

·       Licensed Social Workers

·       Certified Clinical Supervisors

·       Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors

·       Counselors

·       Case Managers

·       Prevention Specialist/Managers

·       Administrative Staff

Grant agreements will be awarded based on the availability of funding. Practitioners can apply for an amount up to $75,000 if they practice full-time or $37,500 if they meet half-time practice criteria.  Award amounts and number of awards will depend upon the number of applications received meeting the criteria of this Grant Initiative Funding Application (GIFA), amount of grant assistance being requested, and the amount of available grant assistance to be awarded.

The GIFA will prioritize eligible applicants who work in rural areas of the Commonwealth that are experiencing SUD workforce shortages as well as those who provide SUD services in counties with underserved minority populations.  

This funding opportunity is made possible from the Opioid Settlement Fund (McKinsey) and Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program Fund.

For more GIFA information, visit the Funding Opportunities page on the DDAP website. Questions regarding the grants and the application process should be emailed to RA-DASUDLRP@pa.gov.