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Opioid Workforce Expansion Program (OWEP) - Paraprofessionals


Additional Links

Notice of Funding Opportunity (


Application Deadline: May 7, 2019


Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW)


Offers funding to mental health organizations and other institutions to build community-based, experiential training opportunities for behavioral health paraprofessional students that are focused on prevention, treatment, and recovery services for opioid use disorder (OUD) and other substance use disorder (SUDs). Focuses on training to address the needs of children, adolescents, and transitional-age youth at risk of SUD and other behavioral disorders. Aims to expand the behavioral health paraprofessional workforce, with the goal of improving access to evidence-based OUD and SUD treatment and services in high need and high demand areas, including rural communities.

Program goals and objectives include:

  • Strengthen existing paraprofessional certificate programs through curriculum development and through experiential pre-service or in-service training, field placements, and internships focused on the provision of OUD/SUD prevention, treatment, and recovery services for the target population
  • Expand program capacity by creating additional training slots in order to increase the number of students trained to work with children, adolescents, and transitional-age youth at risk for behavioral health disorders in high need, high demand areas
  • Support career development and job readiness activities that prepare trainees to participate in collaborating programs and work as part of coordinated care teams that provide support and services to Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA-waived) Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) prescribers
  • Offer job placement services to help students obtain employment in high need, high demand areas
  • Implement integrated and/or interprofessional, experiential training in community-based settings and that involve non-traditional community partners, such as emergency departments, first responders, and judicial systems
  • Develop and leverage partnerships with community-based and non-traditional community organizations to serve high need, high demand areas and at-risk populations
  • Create or strengthen trainee competencies in evidence-supported prevention and treatment modalities used in integrated and/or interprofessional team-based practices for SUD/OUD prevention, treatment, and recovery services
  • Ensure cultural competency in behavioral health workforce by recruiting and providing financial aid to students committed to working in high need, high demand areas after program completion

For this opportunity, high need and high demand areas are identified as sites located within a Mental Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) and/or a Facility Mental HPSA with a score of 16 or above, or counties that have a drug overdose rate that was higher than the national average of 21.7 per 100,000 residents in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Applicants can use the HPSA Find tool to determine an area's eligibility.

Amount of Funding

Award ceiling: $300,000 per year
Project period: 3 years
Estimated number of awards: 33
Estimated total program funding: $29,800,000

Who Can Apply

Applications may be submitted by state-licensed mental health nonprofit and for-profit organizations capable of supporting programs for pre-service or in-service training of paraprofessional child and adolescent mental health workers. Native American tribal organizations may apply, if otherwise eligible. Academic institutions eligible for this opportunity include:

  • Universities
  • Community colleges
  • Technical schools

In order to be eligible, entities must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency, as specified by the U.S. Department of Education, or must be approved by the state government to provide a behavioral health related paraprofessional certificate program.

Priority is given to applicants operating training programs that emphasize the role of the family and the lived experience of partnership between consumers of services, their families, and paraprofessionals providing care.

Applicants can request a funding preference under 1 of the following qualifications for placing program trainees and graduates in medically underserved communities (MUCs):

  1. Qualification 1: High rate must demonstrate that at least 50% of program graduates practice in settings serving MUCs in academic years 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.
  2. Qualification 2: Significant increase must demonstrate a 25% increase placing program graduates in MUCs from academic year 2016-2017 to academic year 2017-2018.
  3. Qualification 3: New program must meet at least 4 of the criteria related to MUCs specified in Part V of the program guidance. New programs are defined as any program that has graduated/completed less than 3 classes.

Medically underserved communities are defined as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs), Medically Underserved Populations (MUPs), or a Governor Certified Shortage Areas for Rural Health Clinic (RHC) purposes HPSA. Applicants can document these designations using the HRSA Shortage Area Dashboard.

Geographic Coverage


What This Program Funds

Capacity Building • Operating Costs and Staffing • Training Providers

Application Process

Application instructions, requirements, and other information can be found in the funding announcement.


For programmatic or technical questions:
Nicole M. Wilkerson

For grants management or budget questions:
William Weisenberg

Rural Awards

One rural community who received funding is Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Topics This Program Addresses

Healthcare Workforce • Mental Health • Opioids • Prevention • Recovery • Substance Use Disorder • Treatment • Youth