The TLOA Obligations on SAMHSA
The TLOA was signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 29, 2010. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, sponsored the bill in response to what he said is a crisis situation on Indian reservations, where violent crime continues to devastate communities at rates much higher than the national average.
The purpose of the TLOA is to institutionalize reforms within the federal government so that justice, safety, education, youth, and alcohol and substance abuse prevention and treatment issues relevant to Indian country remain the subject of consistent focus not only in the current administration, but also in future administrations. The law requires a significant amount of interagency coordination and collaboration between the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of the Interior (DOI), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The TLOA, which reauthorized and amended the Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, focuses on prosecution as well as prevention.
Through the TLOA, Congress sought to engage new federal partners to build upon previous efforts in addressing alcohol and substance use disorders in Indian country. The law requires the Secretary of HHS, the Secretary of the Interior, and the United States Attorney General to develop and enter into a memorandum of agreement to, among other things:
- Determine the scope of the alcohol and substance abuse problems faced by American Indians and Alaska Natives
- Identify the resources and programs of each agency that would be relevant to a coordinated effort to combat alcohol and substance abuse in tribal communities
- Coordinate existing agency programs with those established under the TLOA
This provision directs SAMHSA to take the lead role in interagency coordination and collaboration on tribal substance abuse programs.
SAMHSA will establish and appoint a Director of the Office of Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse (OIASA) and appoint an Indian Youth Program Officer and other staff as may be necessary to enable the office to carry out the responsibilities under the law.
This OIASA will collaborate in the development of a framework for setting interagency communication goals, and provide technical assistance to tribal governments to develop and enhance alcohol and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.
As a core effort of this collaboration, the federal partners will develop and maintain a sustainable partnership infrastructure that enables these various resources to be more fully engaged and coordinated to offer a truly holistic approach in support of tribal alcohol and substance abuse prevention efforts to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The focus will be to:
- Help identify opportunities and programs relevant to Indian tribes and Native communities
- Address issues of concern to Indian tribes and Native communities related to alcohol and substance use disorders
- Serve as a focal point within the federal government for coordination, collaboration, and outreach on alcohol and substance abuse issues affecting the American Indian and Alaska Native population nationwide
- Serve as a liaison advisory body to the federal partners responsible for providing programs and services in Indian country relative to alcohol and substance use disorders
To accomplish these goals, SAMHSA established the Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee to include key agency representation from:
- SAMHSA OIASA
- HHS Indian Health Service
- DOJ Office of Justice Programs
- DOJ Office of Tribal Justice
- DOI Bureau of Indian Affairs
- DOI Bureau of Indian Education
- Department of Education
The committee is also represented by the Administration on Aging and the Administration for Children and Families within HHS. The committee’s organizational structure includes workgroups to carry out its work. The Inventory/Resources workgroup plays a leading role in coordinating the committee’s collaborative efforts.