Detailed information about SAMHSA’s efforts to improve grants management and oversight.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is undertaking extensive efforts to enhance the management of its grant programs. These activities are in keeping with best practices and lessons learned over the last several years related to the implementation of strong grants management and business operations. These efforts include:
Continuous quality improvement:
- SAMHSA embraces a continuous quality improvement approach to examine and improve all its business, program, and policy operations, including grants management.
- The activities described in this document are some examples of SAMHSA’s commitment to improving performance and increasing SAMHSA’s ability to advance its mission to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.
Developing and updating policies and procedures:
- SAMHSA recently conducted a comprehensive examination of its existing policies and procedures. A cross-agency workgroup, led by the Administrator with involvement of the Principal Deputy Administrator and the Operations and Management Team (OMT), cataloged existing procedures, designed a new framework for policies and procedures, developed a clearance process, and identified a comprehensive list of policies and procedures to be developed and/or updated. Since then, SAMHSA has taken several steps to develop a uniform set of policies and procedures to govern its internal business operations. Central to this process is a focus on SAMHSA’s grants management activities.
- SAMHSA is also revising and updating its Government Project Officer (GPO) Handbook for all SAMHSA staff involved in monitoring and managing grants. This handbook provides information on the full spectrum of grant management activities from the pre-award phase to post-award monitoring. It provides details on the management of grants including project monitoring, review of reports, decisions on continuation and carryover requests and related activities. It will also provide additional, specific guidance on action steps to be taken when GPOs identify grantees that are not in compliance with grant requirements. The revised handbook is expected to be completed in CY 2015 and will cover management of both SAMHSA’s discretionary competitive and formula grant portfolios. Continued staff training and reviews will be implemented throughout this process.
- SAMHSA is developing program-specific guidance, monitoring protocols, and materials on programs such as its Mental Health Block Grant program and PAIMI, to assist staff on grants management activities, including documentation and oversight. These include:
- Application checklists
- On-line communication logs
- Performance reporting systems
- Monitoring protocols
- Staff training about specific application of the requirements to various SAMHSA grant programs.
Implementing new systems to manage grants and collect performance data:
- SAMHSA has completed a full review of management systems used to support its grants management activities.
- SAMHSA is using the findings of this review to guide the implementation of a consolidated electronic Grants Enterprise Management System (GEMS). This system will serve as SAMHSA’s primary vehicle for its grants management activities across the lifespan of grants management from pre-award to post-award monitoring. This includes tracking functions such as solicitation development, application review, grant award and post-award monitoring. This system will streamline and make SAMHSA’s grants management processes more efficient.
- SAMHSA is working to develop systems intended to better facilitate the reporting, monitoring, and analysis of grant program performance data submitted by SAMHSA discretionary grantees.
Developing talent management activities:
- SAMHSA is in the process of piloting two talent management activities to optimize staff time and potential and provide support for staff in managing grants.
- The first pilot creates a structure for GPOs whereby a senior-level GPO is assisted by junior staff for the management of grants. The structure allows the junior-level staff person to assist with tracking and administrative functions of grants management to ensure that reports are submitted in a timely manner, documents are complete, and milestones are met, while he or she receives mentorship and training from a senior GPO. Through this structure, the senior GPO can focus on broader policy issues, as well as provide additional technical assistance to the field.
- The second pilot focuses on SAMHSA’s Block Grants. In order to strengthen and expand the knowledge of SAMHSA’s State Project Officers, SAMHSA is implementing a pilot in which a SAMHSA staff member will be designated as a State Point of Contact (POC) for a particular state. This will allow the designated SAMHSA staff person the opportunity to gain a larger perspective on the activities occurring across multiple systems within the state. Currently, individuals are expert on issues within their purview as individual state project officers. This pilot seeks to transform the level of expertise of an individual staff person through giving him or her enhanced understanding of state systems from a broader perspective. This enhanced perspective will assist the POC in being able to advise and guide more effectively both grantees and SAMHSA staff on state activities. In addition, this effort will streamline SAMHSA’s communications and efforts around state-based activities, including collaboration between SAMHSA’s headquarters staff and its Regional Administrators as they work with state and federal partners.
Implementing staff training:
- SAMHSA will be launching training efforts around program-specific guidance for its Mental Health Block Grant and PAIMI Project Officers. This training will deal with specific aspects of program monitoring and compliance.
- SAMHSA is initiating a comprehensive staff development effort to provide training on SAMHSA policies and procedures, including specific training on various aspects of grants management and documentation. This training will evolve as the policies and procedures development and the GPO Handbook revisions are completed.
- SAMHSA is also developing a series of training for both its project officers and grantees around program integrity and risk issues related to the management of its grant programs.