In an effort to save more lives and increase access to treatment for substance use disorder and mental health, U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-7th) recently joined with Kentucky Republican Hal Rogers on a bill to reauthorize and increase funds for the Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery (STAR) Loan Repayment Program, according to a May 16 release from the congresswoman’s office.
The program repays student loans up to $250,000 for those who agree to serve as a full-time substance use disorder 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 release stated.
The Spanberger-Rogers bill would reauthorize STAR for five years and increase funding from $25 to $75 million. Loan payments would be tax exempt.
“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.
“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,” she continued.
Rogers in a statement said it is 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,” he stated.
“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 projected a shortage of more than 24,000 behavioral health providers by 2030, according to the release. Supporting the bill are American Society of Addiction Medicine, National Behavioral Health Association of Providers, Faces and Voices of Recovery and National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers.