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Now Open for Business! Virginia Behavioral Health Student Loan Repayment Program

Written by Bruce Cruser

Bruce Cruser has been Executive Director of Mental Health Virginia since 2016, bringing a background in social work and community corrections, and many years of leadership experience in local and state government.

October 16, 2021

      The lack of mental health care providers is a problem in most of the U.S. It’s become much worse since the pandemic, and Virginia ranks 40th among the states in providing access to a trained behavioral health workforce.  

The waiting period in much of the state for community AND hospital care is a travesty. Fixing this problem will take multiple approaches, and one is to attract people to work here by helping pay off their student debt.  

MHAV advocated with others for the past few years for the legislature to fund a student loan repayment program to entice qualified mental health providers to work in Virginia. The 2021 General Assembly established a $1.6 million Virginia Behavioral Health Student Loan Repayment Program (BH-LRP) to help recruit and retain behavioral health (BH) professionals to practice in underserved areas and/or provide counseling and treatment to underserved populations.   This program will repay a portion of an eligible BH professional’s student loan debt. In return, recipients commit to practicing in Virginia for a minimum of two years at an eligible site.  

This is a small but important victory to improve access to mental health care.   The program is administered through the Virginia Department of Health. They have provided more information below on the program and the application process:  

Applications for the first year of this program will be reviewed and acted on in two cycles:
October 15, 2021 – December 15, 2021
February 1, 2022 – April 15, 2022     

To Visit Program Website To Download Program Flyer  

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS:   Eligible BH-SLRP practice sites include behavioral health authorities or community services boards, federally qualified health centers, free clinics/hybrid clinics, rural health clinics, state mental health or correctional facilities, and nonprofitorganizations serving uninsured or medically underserved populations and/or communities.

Priority will be given to eligible BH professionals of color, those who speak more than one language fluently, and/or those who practice in one of Virginia’s many mental health professional shortage areas. Total award amount will not exceed 25% of student loan debt (annual limits include $30,000 for Psychiatrists and Psych NPs and $20,000 for Psychologists, LPCs, and LCSWs) No employer or community match is required.

ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS:   BH-SLRP awardees must possess a valid and unrestricted license to practice in Virginia in one of theVDH BH SLRP flyer following disciplines: Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists,Psychiatrists, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners (Psych NPs), Licensed Clinical Psychologists, Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs), Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs).  
Please send questions to: or (804) 864-7435.

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