Pennsylvania Launches $19M Marijuana-Funded Student Debt Relief Grant Program


Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) is awarding nearly $19 million in grant funding through its substance use disorder (SUD) loan repayment program.

Program’s Aim

DDAP’s program, in partnership with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), seeks to aid SUD treatment and case management professionals by repaying their outstanding qualifying educational loans.

“The Wolf Administration remains committed to strengthening the drug and alcohol treatment and case management system across Pennsylvania and this loan repayment program is just one more example of that commitment,” said DDAP Secretary Jen Smith. “Easing the burden of student debt is paramount to helping incentivize SUD professionals to remain in this field, which in turn will benefit some of our loved ones, friends, and neighbors who need SUD services most.”

Including case managers, counselors, licensed social workers, physician assistants, and registered nurses, a total of 280 SUD practitioners were awarded funding to go towards repaying their student loans. Among the grant recipients, six are current UPMC employees, each receiving grants of up to $100,000 per person.

Noreen Fredrick, vice president of ambulatory and community behavioral health services for UPMC Western Behavioral Health, said they are “thrilled that the administration is investing in helping and boosting the behavioral health care workforce.”

Additionally, selected candidates had to demonstrate a minimum of two years of prior experience in the SUD field, as well as agree to a service commitment of two additional years.

“There are many ways in which UPMC is advocating for our employees, and programs like this will certainly help ease the heavy loan burden many clinicians obtain to do this important work,” added Fredrick, who also noted behavioral health workers have been at the forefront of addressing substance use disorders and saving lives.

The funding opportunity is made possible by the Opioid Settlement Fund (McKinsey) and Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program Fund, reads the press release.

In October, Pennsylvania’s Department Of Agriculture also announced that they will separately be providing up to $200,000 in matched funding for marketing projects aimed at increasing sales, export, or consumer awareness of the state’s hemp products.

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Photo: Courtesy Of Julia Koblitz On Unsplash


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