Sen. Laura Fine

SPRINGFIELD – With growing demands for mental health providers to support patients struggling with substance use, State Senator Laura Fine is encouraging people to become recovery support specialists through a new initiative expanding the behavioral health workforce student loan forgiveness program.

“If we want people struggling with alcohol and substance abuse to receive the help they need to recover, we need to invest in the people working to become recovery support specialists,” said Fine (D-Glenview). “Thanks to this law, professionals will be able to get assistance for debts they took on while studying to become counselors, providing them financial relief and encouragement to enter this vital field.”  

The Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program was created to address the shortage of community-based behavioral workers in Illinois so that there are fewer disparities in access to critical mental health and substance use services. Starting in 2024, the program will also include alcohol and drug counselors along with mental health professionals like psychologists, licensed clinical social workers and psychiatrists.

Eligible recipients must work for community-based substance abuse disorder treatment or mental health services in underserved or rural communities, ensuring substance use care is accessible in all communities throughout the state.

“All Illinoisans should be able to easily access specialized care when recovering from a substance use issue, regardless of where they live,” said Fine. “By investing in mental health care providers, specifically offering care in underserved communities, we are making sure that people in all parts of the state will have convenient access to necessary treatments.”

Senate Bill 57 was signed into law on Friday, June 9. It goes into effect on July 1, 2024.