Strategic Initiatives

In order to achieve its mission, SAMHSA has identified strategic initiatives focused on leading change to better meet the behavioral health care needs of individuals, communities, and service providers.

Through strategic initiatives, SAMHSA will:

  • Increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders
  • Promote emotional health and wellness
  • Address the prevention of substance abuse and mental illness
  • Increase access to effective treatment
  • Support recovery

These initiatives allow SAMHSA to:

  • Support the behavioral health field with critical data from national surveys and surveillance
  • Build public awareness of the importance of behavioral health
  • Supporting innovation and practice improvement by evaluating and disseminating evidence-based, promising behavioral health practices and engaging in activities that support behavioral health system transformation
  • Collect best practices and developing expertise around prevention and treatment for people with mental illness and addictions
  • Help states, territories, and tribes build and improve system capacity by encouraging innovation, supporting more efficient approaches, and utilizing evidence-based programs and services to produce measurable results

Initiative Information

Current Initiatives

Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

Lead: Frances M. Harding, Director, Center of Substance Abuse Prevention

Through this initiative, SAMHSA promotes and implements prevention and early intervention strategies to reduce the impact of mental and substance use disorders in America’s communities. This initiative includes a focus on several high-risk populations, including:

  • Transition-age youth
  • College students
  • American Indian/Alaska Natives
  • Ethnic minorities experiencing health and behavioral health disparities
  • Service members, veterans, and their families
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals

Website: Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Initiative

Health Care and Health Systems Integration

Lead: Christopher D. Carroll, M.Sc., Director, Division of Health Care Financing and Systems Integration

Health care and health systems integration aims to ensure that behavioral health care services are more accessible and connected to the broader health care system. This initiative focuses on:

  • Increasing access to appropriate high quality prevention, treatment, recovery, and wellness services and supports
  • Reducing disparities between the availability of services for mental illness (including serious mental illness) and substance use disorders compared with the availability of services for other medical conditions, including those for people from minority populations who experience significant health disparities
  • Supporting coordinated care and services across systems

Website: Health Care and Health Systems Integration Initiative

Trauma and Justice

Lead: Larke N. Huang, Ph.D., Director, Office of Behavioral Health Equity

This initiative addresses the behavioral health needs of people involved in - or at risk of involvement in - the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Additionally, it provides a comprehensive public health approach to addressing trauma and establishing a trauma-informed approach in health, behavioral health, human services, and related systems. The intent is to reduce both the observable and less visible harmful effects of trauma and violence on:

  • Children and youth
  • Adults
  • Families
  • Communities


Recovery Support

Lead: Paolo del Vecchio, M.S.W., Director, Center for Mental Health Services

This initiative will promote partnering with people in recovery from mental and substance use disorders and their family members to guide the behavioral health system in:

  • Promoting individual, program, and system-level approaches that foster health and resilience
  • Increasing housing to support recovery
  • Reduce barriers to employment, education, and other life goals
  • Securing social supports in their chosen communities

Website: Recovery Support Initiative

Health Information Technology

Lead: Kimberly Johnson, Ph. D., Director, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment

SAMHSA advances the use of health information technologies to support integrated behavioral health care and its potential to transform the health care system.

This initiative advances the use of health information technologies to support integrated behavioral health care and its potential to transform the health care system. It encourages the general health care delivery system in the adoption of Health Information Technology (HIT) and interoperable Electronic Health Records (EHR) by states, community providers. This will help practitioners across the spectrum provide:

  • High-quality integrated health care
  • Appropriate specialty care
  • Improved patient and consumer engagement
  • Effective prevention and wellness strategies

Website: Health Information Technology

Workforce Development

Lead: Anne M. Herron, M.S., Director, Division of Regional and National Policy Liaison, Office of Policy Planning and Innovation

This initiative will support active strategies to increase the supply of trained and culturally aware preventionists, health care practitioners, paraprofessionals and peers to address the behavioral health needs of the nation. It will also improve the behavioral health knowledge and skills of those health care workers not considered behavioral health specialists.

To help meet behavioral health needs within America’s transforming health promotion and health care delivery systems, this initiative will monitor and assess the needs of:

  • Youth
  • Young adults
  • Young adult and adult peers
  • Communities
  • Health professionals

Website: Workforce Development Initiative

Strategic Initiatives Archive

Leading Change 2.0: Advancing the Behavioral Health of the Nation 2015-2018 (Leading Change 2.0)

Leading Change 2.0: Public Comment Response Summary

Leading Change: A Plan for SAMHSA's Roles and Actions 2011 - 2014


Last Updated: 11/03/2016