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Congressman Higgins Introduces the Opioid Treatment Providers Act

Bill Expands Federal Funding to Support the Addiction Treatment Workforce

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced the introduction of the Opioid Treatment Providers Act (H.R.4788). Sponsored by Higgins, the bill expands the Health Professions Opportunity Grant program (HPOG) to include providers treating those with Opioid Use Disorder.

“The opioid crisis has taken hold of far too many communities across the country and unfortunately that includes Western New York,” said Congressman Higgins. “In order to combat this crisis and save lives, we must support a workforce that can lead those suffering from this disease to recovery. This legislation addresses the growing needs of the behavioral health field, while creating a pathway to good-paying, high-demand jobs for struggling families. It is both an investment in our economy and the health of our communities.”

Created by the Affordable Care Act, the Health Professions Opportunity Grant program (HPOG), administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, awards grants to organizations providing education and training to TANF recipients and other low-income individuals. Funding provided by the program supports pathways to good-paying occupations in the healthcare field that are in high demand or experiencing staffing shortages. The program recently expired. Higgins is among several members of the House Ways and Means Committee leading a larger bill that would reauthorize the Health Professions Opportunity Grant program.

This legislation amends the Social Security Act to include community-based organizations, opioid treatment programs, and other comprehensive addiction care providers as eligible participants in the Health Professions Opportunity Grant program (HPOG). It ensures that opioid treatment providers can participate in the creation of a pipeline of health care professionals to help treat substance use disorder in communities across the country.

Western New York is one of 32 communities in the nation administering a HPOG program. The program administered by the Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Development Consortium, working with more than 150 Western New York employers, has placed over 1,200 people in good-paying local jobs.

Compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, addiction and deaths related to opioid overdoses are on the rise in Western New York. Last year at least 298 Erie County residents died from an opioid overdose, a grim increase from the previous year. As the need for behavioral health professionals grows, a study conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) indicates that without action to support the workforce, there will be a shortage of addiction counselors and psychiatrists by 2030.