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SAMHSA News - January/February 2004, Volume 12, Number 1

SAMHSA Simplifies, Clarifies Grants Process

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 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.

Ongoing Grant Opportunities
For the most recent SAMHSA grant announcements, check the Agency’s Web site at 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 and on the SAMHSA Web site at 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 applications.

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 programs.

"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 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, along with dates for upcoming grant-writing training and technical assistance workshops for community-based, faith-based, and grassroots organizations across the Nation. End of Article

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Inside This Issue

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    SAMHSA News

    SAMHSA News - January/February 2004, Volume 12, Number 1

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