The mission of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities. The Affordable Care Act and new parity protections are expanding mental and substance use disorder benefits to over 60 million Americans. This historic expansion of insurance coverage presents a unique moment in history to address the long standing barriers to treatment for people with mental illness.
The history of the treatment of mental disorders in the United States is marked by inhumane and questionable interventions that did not recognize individual rights or even the humanity of those affected. We must remain cognizant of this history while offering the best, research-based interventions available today.
As a result of investments by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and SAMHSA in research, testing, and evaluation of prevention, treatment, and recovery support services, there have been many advances in the field over the past 50 years. Medications development research has produced pharmacotherapies that can ease the distress of auditory and visual hallucinations, improve the disordered and disorganized thinking of some mental conditions, and assist in the resolution of depression and anxiety.
A wide array of therapies has been shown to improve the ability to cope with symptoms of mental disorders. Investments in infrastructure to assist families and treatment providers working with young people with serious emotional disturbances have produced models to improve outcomes for individuals, families, and systems. New interventions to assist with aspects of everyday life so important to a sense of purpose and meaning – stable housing, the ability to obtain an education, getting and keeping a job – are now part of the services available to assist those living with serious mental disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder.
SAMHSA embraces these advances and, using its Congressionally appropriated funding, works to help implement these approaches across the country. In fact, the biggest percentage of SAMHSA’s Congressionally appropriated mental health funding is directed toward services and supports for those with the most serious illnesses.
Clinical Support System
SAMHSA works closely with the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to help disseminate new and promising practices and advances in the treatment of serious mental disorders. SAMHSA supports national training efforts that provide clinicians and the public with information on these developments and will soon be launching a new clinical support system that will provide training opportunities for clinicians on evidence-based treatments specifically aimed at serious mental illness including the treatment of psychotic, depressive/manic-depressive, and anxiety disorders. SAMHSA also works with researchers, academics, and its grantees to test new models and emerging promising practices to advance the field and the behavioral health of the nation.