SAMHSA Simplifies, Clarifies Grants Process
By Melissa Capers
SAMHSA has revamped its methods of coordinating and announcing
opportunities for funding through discretionary grant programs for
FY 2004. In the past, SAMHSA made as many as 30 separate grant announcements—each
unique to a particular program—in a year. The Agency is looking
forward to a streamlined future, in which just four standard grant
announcements—available to applicants year-round—simplify
and clarify the process by which the Agency solicits and supports
grantees in advancing the field of substance abuse and mental health
services in the United States.
In October 2002, SAMHSA leadership developed a cross-organizational
Discretionary Grants Re-Engineering Team comprised of representatives
from each of SAMHSA's three Centers and from the Agency's planning
and grants management offices. This team reviewed past grant announcements
across the Agency and concluded that most SAMHSA Requests for Funding
Applications fall into one of four categories: Services Grants;
Infrastructure Grants; Best Practices Planning and Implementation
Grants; and Service-to-Science Grants (Discretionary
Grant Categories). Standard grant announcements for each of
these broad categories were then developed, and they are now available
at the SAMHSA Web site at www.samhsa.gov/grants
or from the SAMHSA information clearinghouses—the National
Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, and the National
Mental Health Information Center.
These standard grant announcements address elements common to
each grant category, including the purpose of funding, standard
of evidence, general size of awards, eligibility, allowable activities,
and review criteria. In addition, appendices in each standard announcement
contain resources to assist applicants in planning effective programs
and developing competitive applications. These resources include
SAMHSA's National Registry of Effective Programs and a bibliography
of publications on effective treatment practices for professionals
treating individuals with substance abuse disorders.
|For the most recent SAMHSA
grant announcements, check the Agency’s Web site at www.samhsa.gov/grants
on a regular basis.
The year-round availability of these standard announcements will
allow potential applicants to begin to gather data and review best
practices and standards in their field in anticipation of the opportunity
to apply for SAMHSA support. This change alone will decrease the
burden on potential grantees. In the past, they faced daunting application
requirements, sometimes on very short deadlines.
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New Standard Grant Announcements
Potential grantees should not submit an application at will; specific
funding opportunities will be triggered through a Notice of Funding
Availability (NOFA) published first in the Federal Register,
and then at the Federal grants
Web site at www.grants.gov
and on the SAMHSA Web
site at www.samhsa.gov/grants.
Each NOFA will identify the program for which funding is available,
the applicable grant category, and the criteria required in addition
to (or different from) the standard announcement.
For example, a NOFA to provide mental health services to homeless
people would identify information regarding targeted homeless populations
that would be required in completing an application for a Services
Grant. A grant program to provide substance abuse and HIV/AIDS prevention
services to incarcerated adults would use the same standard announcement,
but would require different additional information and evidence.
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Benefits of the Change
The four grant categories, taken as a whole, provide a structure
to support proven practices—and to prove the promising ones.
Service-to-Science Grants help grantees evaluate promising practices;
Infrastructure Grants support grantees in developing the necessary
structures to deliver and evaluate services effectively; Services
Grants address gaps and unmet needs in the substance abuse and mental
health service system; and Best Practices Planning and Implementation
Grants promote the use of practices that prove effective.
A very few SAMHSA funding opportunities, such as grants for training,
conferences, or technical assistance, don't fit within the
four-category structure. These opportunities will continue to be
announced through separate, individual Requests for Applications.
"Simplifying the application and review process will increase
clarity and help both applicants and SAMHSA," says Frank Sullivan,
Ph.D., Director of Organizational Effectiveness at SAMHSA. Applicants
now have greater opportunity to familiarize themselves with Federal
expectations regarding applications for funding. In addition, Dr.
Sullivan hopes that the new structure will enable SAMHSA to provide
more time between the publication of NOFAs and the due date for
According to Dr. Sullivan, the ultimate goal of redesigning the
grants process is "to advance the SAMHSA mission of building
resilience and facilitating recovery for citizens affected by substance
abuse and mental health issues." Clarifying SAMHSA's
expectations through the use of standard grant announcements will
advance applicants' understanding of the Agency's needs
and priorities. Stronger applications and additional SAMHSA support
can lead to better developed—and better documented—community-based
"A clearer process," says Dr. Sullivan, "will
help SAMHSA communicate goals and expectations more easily, and
will help the field work with us more effectively. Good communication
will help grantees learn and share the knowledge they gain. And,
through that shared knowledge, we can advance the field of substance
abuse and mental health services. Our collective knowledge is one
of our greatest resources."
In addition to communicating more clearly with local, state, and
community-based organizations, SAMHSA intends the
new grants process to facilitate cooperation across and within the
three SAMHSA Centers. Using standard Services or Best Practices
announcements, for example, the Centers could collaborate to develop
a NOFA for programs targeting individuals with co-occurring mental
and substance abuse disorders. The standard announcements will thereby
assist SAMHSA in developing new field-ready programs.
SAMHSA staff, who will no longer be required to develop full grant
announcements for each of several grant programs, will
be better able to assist applicants and grantees in developing applications
and delivering services.
"We want to shift staff energy from the front end of the
process—writing and reviewing funding announcements—to
emphasize grantee support, program productivity, and client outcomes,"
says Dr. Sullivan. "Preserving staff resources for grant monitoring
and support will enable SAMHSA to help grantees more effectively
solve problems they encounter as they activate their programs; help
one another through their lessons learned; and help themselves through
the development and implementation of evaluations that more clearly
communicate the efficacy and cost efficiency of their programs."
For more information about the four new SAMHSA standard grant
announcements and the changes to SAMHSA
Discretionary Grant Funding Opportunities, visit www.samhsa.gov/grants.
This Web site also includes a downloadable manual on developing
competitive SAMHSA grants,
which contains a glossary of terms, references, and additional Web
resources. A list of 2003 grant awardees is available at www.samhsa.gov/grants,
along with dates for upcoming grant-writing training and technical
assistance workshops for community-based, faith-based, and grassroots
organizations across the Nation.
Related MaterialDiscretionary Grant Categories »
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