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Senate opioid bill includes loan repayment program

The Senate will vote Thursday on its opioid bill (S.2609), which includes language to create a student loan repayment program for human service workers that would help recruit and retain staff.

"Many of these are low-paid positions that require significant education and training, and this program helps to recruit and retain these highly qualified people in our sector," said Providers’ Council President and CEO Michael Weekes.

The legislation has been championed by Sen. Eric Lesser; Sen. Cindy Friedman, chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery; and Senate Ways & Means Chair Karen Spilka, who is poised to become the next Senate President. 

The language in the Senate bill, which specifies the program would be subject to appropriation, is drawn from legislation filed this session by the Council: H.116 and S.42 An act establishing a loan repayment program for direct care human services workers. The Council’s bills specify that qualified workers earn no more than $45,000 per year, work a minimum 35 hours per week and have been employed for 12 consecutive months in the sector.

The opioid bill filed by the House late last month did not include student loan repayment, making it an issue to be resolved between the chambers.