Pennsylvania boosts student-loan aid to bolster opioid fight

Written by The Associated Press | May 15, 2019 10:39 AM

FILE PHOTO: Melissa Jones, right, a nurse educator with Alosa Health, speaks with Dr. Dorothy Wilhelm in an exam room at a medical office in Monroeville, Pa. Jones visits medical offices in western Pennsylvania to educate doctors about new opioid prescribing guidelines. (AP Photo/Carla K. Johnson)

(Harrisburg) -- Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is devoting $5 million in federal grants to a student-loan repayment program in high opioid-use areas where there's a shortage of substance-abuse treatment professionals.

The application period opened May 1st and runs through June 3rd.

An administration spokesman says the new program is fairly unique in the opioid-epidemic response.

He says there are 30 counties where opioid abuse is most prevalent, including Berks, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mifflin and York.

"The opioid crisis is the largest public health crisis in decades, and we continue to need more professionals who can assist in addressing this crisis," Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. "This funding helps us ensure that those affected by the crisis living in both underserved areas and areas hit particularly hard have access to primary medical and behavioral health care services to treat their disorder."

Successful applicants must have served two years treating substance abuse and opioid addiction.

They'll be obligated to commit to two additional years working at an approved treatment facility.

The state has an existing student-loan repayment program for primary care physicians using $2.6 million in state and federal funds.

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