by Danielle Kennedy, WSBT 22 Reporter

New legislation in the U.S. Senate could help combat opioid abuse and addiction.

Senator Joe Donnelly introduced a bill to encourage people to work in addiction treatment centers.

Lawmakers say there’s a shortage of providers. Everyone from counselors to doctors and even nurses’ assistants.

Under this new bill, employees at certain treatment facilities would be eligible for a student loan repayment and forgiveness program through the National Health Services Corps.

More than 20,000 people receive services from Oaklawn every year across St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties.

But officials say there’s a shortage of people providing mental health and addiction services.

“It can take up to 30 days or two months to see a prescriber that’s specifically trained in giving these types of medication. We’ve worked very hard to try and streamline some of those ways, but according to the CDC, many people are dying within 18 months of their first use of an opioid,” said John Horsley, Director of Addiction Services at Oaklawn.

Leaders believe incentives like student loan forgiveness and repayment programs could encourage people to get into the field.

“The funds being used here is to help our friends and neighbors get healthy and to help get our friends and neighbors off of addiction,” said Sen. Donnelly.

Donnelly says providers would be eligible for loan assistance through the National Health Service Corps if they agree to serve at a treatment facility for a certain number of years.

Read more at WSBT

Donnelly looking for more ways to combat opioid abuse and addiction