SAMHSA focuses on at-risk populations by initiating and supporting prevention and early intervention programs to address specific cultural needs.
Children and Youth
Half of adult mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders begin before age 14, and three-fourths by age 24. SAMHSA has many programs, public awareness efforts, and partnerships to support and educate children and youth, as well as their families and communities:
- Building Blocks for a Healthy Future is an early childhood substance abuse prevention program developed by SAMHSA to educate parents and caregivers about the basics of prevention to promote healthy lifestyles.
- National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day seeks to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health and that positive mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development from birth.
- Safe Schools/Healthy Students is a grant program designed to prevent violence and substance abuse among youth, schools, and communities, which supports the Now Is The Time initiative.
- Tobacco/Synar Program requires states to have laws in place prohibiting the sale and distribution of tobacco products to people under age 18 and to enforce those laws effectively.
Youth transitioning into adulthood (ages 18 to 25) are especially vulnerable to mental and/or substance use disorders. For example, results from SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (PDF | 3.4 MB) show the rate of substance dependence or abuse among adults aged 18 to 25 (16.3%) was higher than that among youths aged 12 to 17 (5%) and among adults aged 26 or older (7.1%).
From 2002 to 2014, the rate decreased for youths aged 12 to 17 (from 8.9 to 5%) and for young adults aged 18 to 25 (from 21.7 to 16.3%).
American Indians and Alaska Natives
SAMHSA’s Office of Tribal Affairs and Policy (OTAP) serves as SAMHSA’s primary point of contact for tribal governments, tribal organizations, federal departments and agencies, and other governments and agencies on behavioral health issues facing American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States. The office supports SAMHSA’s efforts to advance the development and implementation of data-driven policies and innovative practices that promote improved behavioral health for American Indian and Alaska Native communities and populations. OTAP brings together SAMHSA’s tribal affairs, tribal policy, tribal consultation, tribal advisory, and Tribal Law and Order Act responsibilities to improve agency coordination and meaningful progress. Prevention and early intervention efforts include:
- The SAMHSA Office of Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse (OIASA) and its federal partners provide tribes with technical assistance and resources to help communities achieve their awareness, prevention, and treatment goals. The OIASA is required under the Tribal Law and Order Act to coordinate those resources.
- The SAMHSA Tribal Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Center provides TTA on mental and substance use disorders, suicide prevention, violence prevention, and the promotion of mental health.
For more information on SAMHSA’s efforts among American Indian and Alaska Native communities, visit the Tribal Affairs topic.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Individuals
LGBT individuals face health disparities linked to discrimination, oppression, and denial of their civil and human rights. As a consequence, they tend to have higher rates for mental and/or substance abuse disorders and suicide.
SAMHSA’s LGBT-focused prevention and early intervention efforts include:
- Encouraging states to consider LGBT needs in administering their SAMHSA Block Grants resources
- Promoting a sexual and gender minority focus in funding announcements where appropriate
- Publishing A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children – 2014
- Adding sexual orientation questions in SAMHSA surveys and grantee data collection
- Providing ongoing leadership to help stop bullying of LGBT youth, which includes significant participation in the development of the LGBT section for stopbullying.gov
To develop prevention and early intervention strategies, SAMHSA’s Top Health Issues for LGBT Populations Information & Resource Kit – 2012 provides information on behavioral health issues for each of the LGBT populations.
Visit the SAMHSA Office of Behavioral Health Equity’s LGBT webpage to learn more and access additional resources.
Veterans, Service Members, and Military Families
A significant number of returning service men and women suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and substance abuse (particularly alcohol and prescription drug abuse). A recent report based on the 2013 NSDUH showed that 1 in 15 veterans had a substance use disorder in the past year. In addition, the suicide rate among male and female veterans and military service members exceeds the national suicide rate for the general population, according to a January 2014 Veterans Health Administration report (PDF | 855 KB).
Further, there is a growing body of research about the impact of deployment and trauma-related stress on military families, particularly wives and children.
SAMHSA focuses on improving the behavioral health of the nation’s military service members, veterans, and their families. It does this by providing support and leadership through a collaborative and comprehensive approach to increase access to appropriate services, prevent suicide, promote emotional health, and reduce homelessness.
For more information, visit the Veterans and Military Families topic.