New federal loan repayment program supports SUD treatment team
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(BPT) - In addition to being on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response, many clinicians across the country were also managing one of the worst years for drug-related overdoses on record. According to recent data from the CDC, more than 81,000 drug overdoses occurred between May and December 2020.

These crises have led to burnout among health care workers and other professionals trying to combat these issues. However, a new initiative from the federal government called the Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Loan Repayment Program (STAR LRP) could provide some financial relief for qualified members of the substance use disorder (SUD) treatment team.

What is the STAR LRP?

The STAR LRP provides financial assistance to SUD treatment team members who may not be eligible for other federal programs, including bachelor-level SUD counselors, behavioral health paraprofessionals and clinical support staff. The program offers up to $250,000 in loan repayment for health care professionals who work at an approved treatment facility, full time, for six years.

"The opioid crisis did not stop for the pandemic, it worsened," says Dr. Luis Padilla, Associate Administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW). “Providing some form of financial relief is a way to support the SUD treatment team’s efforts to provide care to our most vulnerable populations. It also incentivizes them to continue this care over the long term.”

Padilla also says initiatives like these are vital because they help treatment teams continue their work in underserved communities. Additionally, the program expands the eligible pool of disciplines and treatment facility types, allowing substance use disorder workers to shift their focus from the financial burden of student loan debt to helping their communities fight epidemics like the opioid crisis.

Who qualifies for a STAR LRP award?

To qualify for the STAR LRP, you must be a:

  • United States citizen, national or permanent resident
  • Fully licensed and credentialed in an eligible discipline/registered SUD professional
  • Full-time employee at a STAR LRP-approved facility.

STAR LRP-approved facilities must be located in a county where the three-year drug overdose death rate is greater than the national average, or the facility must have a mental health HPSA (MHPSA) designation.

What other factors are used to determine who is awarded?

Along with the requirements related to working at a STAR LRP-approved facility, applicants’ job start date and tenure on the job are taken into account in ranking their application.

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What are the eligible health care disciplines?

Below are a few of the disciplines that are eligible to apply for the STAR LRP.

  • Licensed Social Worker
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
  • Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Community Health Worker
  • Pharmacist
  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Physician
  • Peer Recovery Specialist
  • Psychology Doctoral Intern

For a more expansive list, check out the STAR LRP webpage.

Is the money someone receives from STAR LRP taxable?

Yes, STAR LRP funds that an individual receives are subject to federal income and employment taxes.

Where can I find more information?

If you’re interested in learning more about the STAR LRP program, visit the STAR LRP webpage and find out if you’re eligible now.

You can also join a STAR LRP Q & A session on any of the following dates:


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