SAMHSA connects veterans to needed behavioral health care

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) supports America’s service men and women -- active duty, national guard, reserves, and veterans -- by improving the quality and coordination of behavioral health services across the country.

As part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to deliver the quality behavioral health care veterans have been promised, SAMHSA is working to ensure local mental health and substance abuse service agencies connect veterans to the full array of benefits available through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense.

SAMHSA's Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF) Technical Assistance (TA) Center, works with states and territories to strengthen their behavioral health systems serving SMVF.  Through the TA Center SAMHSA works with states and tribes to promote coordination among community, military and veteran service systems and provides information on integrated treatment for mental and substance use conditions.  These models of care are captured in SAMHSA’s  National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP).  NREPP is a searchable online registry of substance abuse and mental health interventions, many of which are targeted to veterans and military families.

SAMHSA also manages in partnership with the VA the Veterans Crisis Line which connects Veterans in crisis and their families with qualified, caring VA counselors.  

These programs make a critical difference in the lives of many veterans.  For example, SAMHSA data drawn from non-VA run treatment programs showed that in 2013, 62,000 substance use treatment admissions involved veterans.  This data also indicates that the substance use treatment needs of veterans are significantly different from non-veterans in some respects.

In 2013, 65.4 percent of admissions involving veterans at the non-VA treatment programs were primarily related to alcohol abuse.  Only 37.4 percent of non-veteran admissions cited alcohol as their primary substance of abuse.

Admissions involving veterans were less likely than those involving non-veterans to have marijuana reported as the primary substance of abuse (5.5 percent versus 13.4 percent).  Similarly, admissions involving veterans were nearly half as likely as those involving non-veterans to have heroin reported as the primary substance of abuse (10.7 percent versus 20.9 percent).

“Many veterans have made sacrifices for our country and faced extraordinary challenges. We need to make sure the help we provide them meets their needs,” said Acting SAMHSA Administrator Kana Enomoto. “SAMHSA will continue to support healthcare providers with tools and training so state-of-the-art behavioral health care is available to those who have served our nation.”

These findings are in a SAMHSA spotlight report entitled Veterans’ Primary Substance of Abuse is Alcohol in Treatment Admissions, available at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2111/Spotlight-2111.pdf.

The spotlight report’s data is drawn from SAMHSA’s Treatment Episodes Data Set, which collects information from substance use treatment programs from across the nation.

Additionally, the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions released an updated guide that features an array of resources to support you in serving veterans, service members and their families. Download the guide at http://www.integration.samhsa.gov/resource/serving-veterans-a-resource-guide.

For more information, contact the SAMHSA Press Office at 240-276-2130.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

Last Updated: 08/05/2016