JB Pritzker, Governor, State of Illinois

Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program

(last updated November 16, 2023)

The number of awards made through this program, as well as the individual dollar amount awarded, are subject to sufficient annual appropriations by the Illinois General Assembly and the Governor.

Program News 
Program Overview 
Eligibility Requirements
Application Procedure
GAP Access Registration and Eligibility Certification
Award Determination and Payment

Program News

Fiscal Year 2024

The 2024 fiscal year (July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024) appropriation for the Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program is $5,000,000.

The 2023-24 application for this program continues to be accepted. In order to be considered timely, the application must have been submitted on or before November 15, 2023, which was the priority consideration date. Applications received after that date are considered for awards only if funding remains available after all timely, qualified applicants have been awarded.

The Gift Assistance Programs (GAP) Access portal is open for the certification of applicants' employment status at community mental health facilities, which must be verified as part of program eligibility. A facility point person is required to register as a Primary Administrator, after which additional users may be added to perform program functions. Refer to the "Registration of GAP Access Account Guide" with detailed instructions for assigning administrators and certifying the employment status of program applicants. To facilitate the prompt processing of program applications, community mental health facilities are encouraged to complete the certification process as quickly as possible.

Qualified applicants are receiving notification of eligibility and disbursement of funds has begun. The amount of the award is deducted from recipients' student loan balances and lenders/servicers will receive funds approximately 6 weeks after recipient notification.

Disbursements will continue to occur as more eligible applicants are certified by community mental health facilities.

Program Overview

{ISAC Rules, Part 2753}

The Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program provides loan repayment assistance to qualified mental health and substance use professionals. The program was designed as incentive for recruitment and retention of those who practice in underserved or rural areas. It seeks to help address the shortage of Illinois community-based behavioral workers that causes disparities in access to critical mental health and substance use services. The amount of the annual award to qualified applicants to repay their student loan debt is based on their position and may be received for up to four years.

Eligibility Requirements

{ISAC Rules, Part 2753.20}

In order to qualify for the Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program, applicants must:

  • be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen
  • be an Illinois resident
  • have an outstanding balance due on an eligible educational loan (includes Stafford loans, Graduate PLUS loans, consolidation loans, Supplemental Loans for Students, alternative loans and other types of government and institutional loans used for education expenses)
  • be a qualifying behavioral health professional who meets licensing requirements of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation or holds certification as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor from the Illinois Alcoholism and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association
    • psychiatrist
    • advanced practice registered nurse
    • physician assistant
    • psychologist who holds a doctoral degree (Psy.D or Ph.D.)
    • licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
    • licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC)
    • CADC-certified substance use professional
  • have worked for at least 12 consecutive months immediately prior to applying for this program as a behavioral health professional in an approved community mental health center in an underserved or rural Illinois health professional shortage area (HPSA) mental health discipline
  • for each year the assistance is received, fulfill a separate 12 month period as a behavioral health professional in an approved community mental health center in an underserved or rural Illinois HPSA mental health discipline and
  • not be in default on any federal guaranteed educational loan nor owe a refund on a grant or scholarship program administered by ISAC.

Application Procedures

{ISAC Rules, Part 2753.30}

All applicants must submit a complete Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program application to ISAC each academic year. In order to be considered timely, the application must be submitted on or before the priority consideration date, which will be announced when the application is made available each year.

If the application is incomplete, a letter will be sent to the applicant to request the missing information. Processing cannot take place prior to the date a complete application is received in ISAC's Deerfield office.

Qualified applicants will be sent a Notice of Eligibility letter from ISAC.

GAP Access Registration and Eligibility Certification

Certification of an applicant’s eligibility by the approved community mental health facility takes place in the ISAC Gift Assistance Programs (GAP) Access portal. Before certification can be completed, a Primary Administrator must register in GAP Access as the authorized official who will serve as the facility’s point person with ISAC. Once registered, the Primary Administrator may perform all program functions and/or may assign other facility staff member(s) to various functions, such as granting privileges, resetting passwords, and viewing and updating applicant records.

Instructions for registering as Primary Administrators, Administrators and Users are in the Registration of GAP Access Account Guide.

Following ISAC’s review of the information provided on the application to determine that the applicant has met initial eligibility requirements, eligible applicant records will be available in GAP Access for certification. Facility employees’ employment for the required timeframe is certified by accessing the Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program tab and:

  • clicking on the “Certification” tab
  • selecting the appropriate facility name/location
  • clicking “Go” to view the list of applicants
  • clicking on a specific record to enter HPSA score*; employment status, start and (if no longer employed) end dates; qualified behavioral profession
  • clicking “Certify”, then “Close” to exit.

Please note that periods of vacation and leave of absence provided by an employer count as time worked when calculating required employment timeframes.

**Mental health facilities eligible for participation in the program have an assigned Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) score between 1 and 25. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Find Shortage Areas by Address” search tool at https://data.hrsa.gov/tools/shortage-area/by-address can be used to learn a facility’s HPSA score. The result (a number score) available through the search tool is the number to be entered into the Certification screen. In rare instances an HPSA score of zero (0) may occur. ISAC’s system will accept a zero (0) response in the field.

Instructions for completing the employment certification process are in the Registration of GAP Access Account Guide, beginning on page 12. In addition, further information is provided on the Community Behavioral Health Care Professional Loan Repayment Program Electronic Processing page.

Award Determination and Payment

{ISAC Rules, Part 2753.30}

Recipients are selected from among qualified new and renewal applicants. The total number of awards each year is contingent on available funding. If funding in any given year is insufficient to pay all eligible applicants, awarding will be determined in the following order:

  • renewal applicants, in the order in which their applications were received
  • new applicants, using the mental health portion of the HPSA database to rank eligible rural and underserved applications, giving priority to those in the areas with the highest degree of shortage (score) for that applicant’s profession. If multiple applicants receive the same score, applications will be given consideration in the order in which they were received.
    • If an applicant works for an organization located in an HPSA mental health discipline that has satellite clinics and the applicant more than one of the clinics, the highest HPSA score where the applicant works will apply.
    • If an applicant works for different employers in multiple HPSA mental health disciplines having different degrees of shortage, the location having the highest HPSA mental health discipline score will apply.

The award amount is based on the applicant’s remaining balance on eligible education loans, not to exceed:

  • $35,000 per year for a psychiatrist
  • $15,000 per year for an advanced practice registered nurse or a physician assistant
  • $12,000 per year for a psychologist who holds a doctoral degree
  • $6,500 per year for a licensed clinical social worker or a licensed clinical professional counselor and
  • $2,500 per year for a substance abuse professional.

Proceeds will be remitted directly to the holder of the loan(s) to be repaid. There is a minimum of 8 – 10 weeks turnaround from the date approved recipients are notified by ISAC to when funds are disbursed.