An estimated 20.7 million Americans age 12 or over needed treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) in 2017, but only about 4 million Americans age 12 or over received any form of treatment for SUD. This current addiction treatment gap will never be closed with the current addiction treatment workforce.
To make a meaningful and sustainable impact on the current opioid overdose epidemic, and to stave off emerging epidemics related to other addictive substances, it is imperative that our country makes strategic investments to grow the ranks of trained and qualified addiction specialists.
Right now, Congress has an opportunity to fund two new programs that would strengthen the nation’s inadequate addiction treatment workforce.
First, Congress should appropriate $25 million in funding for the Loan Repayment Program for Substance Use Disorder Treatment Workforce, authorized in the Support for Patients and Communities Act. This would provide for a new and robust student loan repayment program to professionals who pursue full-time SUD treatment jobs in high-need geographic areas.
Second, Congress should appropriate $10 million in funding for the Mental and Substance Use Disorder Workforce Training Demonstration Program authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act. This would fund more training opportunities for medical residents and fellows in psychiatry and addiction medicine, as well as nurse practitioners, physician assistants and others who are willing to provide SUD treatment in underserved communities.
I urge our lawmakers to take the next step and appropriate federal funds for these programs.
Building a robust SUD treatment workforce is critical and should be part of any comprehensive federal response to the opioid overdose epidemic. Otherwise, far too many patients seeking treatment will continue to lack access to care and more lives will be lost.