Above All, SAMHSA Seeks To Improve Lives
By Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.
Substance abuse, addictions, poor emotional health, and mental illnesses take a toll on individuals, families, and communities. They cost money, and they cost lives, as do physical illnesses that are not prevented, are left untreated, or are poorly managed. Their presence exacerbates the cost of treating co-morbid physical diseases and results in some of the highest disability burdens in the world, compared with other causes of disability.
SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.
For example according to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2009 an estimated 45.1 million adults age 18 and older had mental illness, including 11.0 million with serious mental illness. Two million youth age 12 to 17 years had a major depressive episode during the past year. Also in 2009, an estimated 23.5 million Americans age 12 and older needed treatment for substance use.
Individuals and families cannot be healthy without positive mental health and freedom from addictions and abuse of substances.
SAMHSA has a unique responsibility to focus the Nation’s health and social agendas on these preventable and treatable problems stemming from disease, trauma, inadequate access to appropriate care, and insufficient community and family supports.
SAMHSA’s goal is a high-quality, self-directed, satisfying life integrated in a community for all people in America. This includes:
Health—Overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way;
Home—A stable and safe place to live that supports recovery;
Purpose—Meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors and the independence, income, and resources to participate in society; and
Community—Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.
A person’s health, home, purpose, and community are compromised when emotional resources are inadequate to contend with adverse events, a mental disorder is left untreated, drugs and alcohol are abused or lead to addictive disorders, families or communities experience trauma, health care is unavailable, or basic needs go unmet.
In these circumstances, security and hope are lost. Prevention and treatment services for behavioral health are important parts of health service systems and communitywide strategies that work to improve health status and lower costs for individuals, families, businesses, and governments.
SAMHSA provides leadership and devotes its resources—programs, policies, information and data, contracts and grants—toward helping the Nation act on the knowledge that:
- Behavioral health is essential for health;
- Prevention works;
- Treatment is effective; and
- People recover from mental and substance use disorders.
The following eight Strategic Initiatives, as described in Leading Change: A Plan for SAMHSA’s Roles and Actions 2011—2014, will guide SAMHSA’s work from 2011 through 2014:
- Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness—Creating communities where individuals, families, schools, faith-based organizations, and workplaces take action to promote emotional health and reduce the likelihood of mental illness, substance abuse including tobacco, and suicide. This Initiative will include a focus on the Nation’s high-risk youth, youth in Tribal communities, and military families.
- Trauma and Justice—Reducing the pervasive, harmful, and costly health impact of violence and trauma by integrating trauma-informed approaches throughout health, behavioral health, and related systems and addressing the behavioral health needs of people involved in or at risk of involvement in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
- Military Families—Supporting America’s service men and women—Active Duty, National Guard, Reserve, and Veteran—together with their families and communities by leading efforts to ensure that needed behavioral health services are accessible and that outcomes are positive.
- Recovery Support—Partnering with people in recovery from mental and substance use disorders to guide the behavioral health system and promote individual-, program-, and system-level approaches that foster health and resilience; increase permanent housing, employment, education, and other necessary supports; and reduce barriers to social inclusion.
- Health Reform—Increasing access to appropriate high-quality prevention, treatment, and recovery services; reducing disparities that currently exist between the availability of services for mental and substance use disorders compared with the availability of services for other medical conditions; and supporting integrated, coordinated care, especially for people with behavioral health and other co-occurring health conditions such as HIV/AIDS.
- Health Information Technology—Ensuring that the behavioral health system, including States, community providers, and peer and prevention specialists, fully participates with the general health care delivery system in the adoption of Health Information Technology (HIT) and interoperable Electronic Health Records (EHR).
- Data, Outcomes, and Quality—Realizing an integrated data strategy and a national framework for quality improvement in behavioral health care that will inform policy, measure program impact, and lead to improved quality of services and outcomes for individuals, families, and communities.
- Public Awareness and Support—Increasing the understanding of mental and substance use disorders to achieve the full potential of prevention, help people recognize mental and substance use disorders and seek assistance with the same urgency as any other health condition, and make recovery the expectation.
Leading Change: A Plan for SAMHSA’s Roles and Actions 2011—2014 is a living document, and SAMHSA will continue to work with its partners to update and implement these Initiatives as conditions change over time. Undoubtedly, action steps and goals will shift, but the purpose will remain the same—to fulfill our mission to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.