Graduates who work in underserved areas to treat those struggling with addiction are eligible to have some of their student loan debt repaid.
For individuals who want to get an advanced degree in a mental health field, the associated costs can be staggering.
Many students resort to student loans, so much so that the overall amount of student debt has risen sharply in the U.S. In terms of private debt, student loan debt is second only to mortgage debt in the country.
Student loan debt has steadily increased as college tuition has increased. In the first three months of 2019, overall student loan debt in the United States rose to approximately $1.49 trillion. This is more than the total amount of credit card debt or auto loan debt in the United States.
Here are some additional facts about student loan debt in the U.S.:
In recent years, legislators in Colorado have been concerned with the rising number of drug overdoses and the overall opioid epidemic. As a result, they have provided incentives to licensed addiction counselors and treatment specialists to work in underserved areas.
In 2018, Colorado state lawmakers made revisions to the Colorado Health Service Corps Program to allow specific health care professionals, including those who treat substance abuse, to be eligible for student loan payment.
The incentive is a grant payment that is tax-free and can be applied to student loan debt. The grant would be in addition to hourly wages or annual salaries. Ultimately, this incentive is designed to get addiction treatment specialists into areas of need (underserved areas).
There are some specific obligations that individuals in these grant repayment programs must fulfill. The workload may be a bit more than one would encounter in another type of setting.
To get the grant, the bulk of your time must be spent in direct patient contact. This means face-to-face, one-on-one sessions with patients. You must also make a three-year commitment to the program.
If you earned a certified addiction counselor credential, and you are able to make a commitment to work for at least three years in substance use disorder treatment, you could qualify for grants of up to $20,000 tax-free that can pay your student loans.
If you earned an advanced licensed addiction counselor credential and are able to commit to three years of treating substance use disorders, you could earn up to $50,000 tax-free to repay your student loans.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, you could be eligible to receive a repayment of student loans if you practice in an area with a shortage of health professionals, delivering your services to people who are in underserved areas.
You must accept public insurance, and you must offer low-income patients or uninsured patients discounted services. You would need to be employed at an approved site during the first day of the application cycle.
You have to be providing behavioral health, dental, mental health, or medical care in face-to-face and one-on-one encounters. This means no telehealth or telemedicine services qualify for the grant. All treatment must be deemed medically necessary.
What Other Health Professionals Qualify?
The following professions can qualify for student loan repayments:
The amounts for fulltime professionals are:
For those working part-time at an approved facility, the award amounts are:
Are There Any Catches?
Yes, there are specific requirements. In order to qualify for the loan repayment grant:
The hourly requirements cover preventive interventions or medically necessary treatment. Qualifying visits must be in-person, one-on-one sessions or group sessions.
The full-service obligation requires that you work 40 hours a week year-round, with a minimum of 32 hours per week of direct face-to-face contact.
The part-time obligation requires at least 20 hours per week year-round, with at least 16 hours per week of face-to-face sessions.
The next round of applications will be accepted from March 1st to March 31st, 2020.
Visit the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website for more information. They outline specific instructions for applying to the grant program.