Eliminate SAMHSA? Is that throwing the Baby out with the Bathwater? | Behavioral Healthcare Executive Skip to content Skip to navigation

Eliminate SAMHSA? Is that throwing the Baby out with the Bathwater?

July 21, 2011
by Terry L. Stawar, Ed.D.
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In the June 20, 2011 issue of National Review, psychiatrist and advocate E. Fuller Torrey threw the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) under the bus, saying that it “is a federal health agency distinguished by the fact that the health of its clients would improve if it went out of business.”

As the White House and Congressional leaders seek out areas of the federal budget to eliminate, Dr. Torrey has targeted SAMHSA, for what he see as a lack of leadership and commitment to make treatment accessible for people with serious mental illness (SMI).

Citing SAMHSA’s failure to even mention Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder in its long range action plan, Torrey suggests the organization is no longer relevant and that NIMH, NIAAA, and NIDA could pick up it’s “few valuable functions” such as data collection.

As founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, Dr. Torrey especially criticizes SAMHSA;s funding of groups that he believes have lobbied against changes in state laws that would increase treatment availability for people with serious mental illness.

With it’s strong emphasis on things such as integrated care, the recovery model, and evidence based practices has SAMHSA lost its focus? Does it deserve support? Perhaps more importantly, does such internecine warfare just further impede the overall struggle to maintain, let alone increase federal funding for SMI services in this era of multi-trillion dollar federal cuts.


Hello? The Addiction Technology Transfer Center network is a fabulous resource. That is a prime SAMHSA product. Now, I didn't know that they didn't mention schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. If so, they need to correct that. But to eliminate SAMHSA is an awful idea. I've always admired Torrey's work, such as his book Schizophrenia and Civilization, but on this we part ways. Peter L. Myers, Ph.D. www.incase-edu.net

I'm REALLY interested in what precipitated this bash on SAMHSA... As a mental health consumer and an advocate myself in this arena, this took me by GREAT suprise! I was hoping maybe it was a knee jerk response to a turned down grant proposal...

I was saddened to learn of Dr. Torrey's criticism of SAMHSA. In a time when the public mental health system is not only yelling, but screaming, for dollars to serve those who are in need, Dr. Torrey should have headed what my momma used to say to her children, "If you can't say something nice, don't say it at all!" His words will have a deep effect on our government leaders who already are looking to hurt the mental health area by cutting dollars. Sad...really sad.

Terry Stawar

President/CEO (LifeSpring, Inc.)

Terry Stawar



Terry L. Stawar, EdD, is President and CEO of LifeSpring Health Systems, a community behavioral...

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