Home Mental Health Month: More funding needed for behavioral health providers
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Mental Health Month: More funding needed for behavioral health providers

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A loan repayment program for addiction and recovery providers received more than 3,000 applications in 2021, but the program could only support 255 students. A group of legislators are working to increase the funding for the program.

The Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery loan repayment program repays students loans up to $250,000 for participants who agree to serve as a full-time substance use disorder treatment provider in underserved areas.

In 2022, the Health Resources and Services Administration projected a shortage of more than 24,000 behavioral health providers by 2030.

U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Hal Rogers (R-KY-05) introduced a bipartisan bill to 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,” said Rep. Spanberger. “These men and women deserve to be appreciated and fairly rewarded for their critical work.

“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.”

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 and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.