SAMHSA’s Recovery Support Efforts

SAMHSA offers a range of recovery services and supports that help people develop resiliency and recover from mental and/or substance use disorders.

Drawing on research, practice, and the personal experiences of youth and adults living in recovery, SAMHSA leads efforts to: foster health, wellness and resilience, increase access to permanent supportive housing, employment, educational opportunities, and other supports; and to reduce negative attitudes, beliefs, and discrimination that impact full participation in community life.

  • BRSS TACS—Offers policy guidance, technical assistance, training, materials, and subcontract awards to help states and providers, including peer providers, adopt and implement best and emerging practices in recovery supports, services, and systems.
  • Co-occurring Disorders—Mental and substance use conditions often co-occur. In other words, individuals with substance use conditions often have a mental health condition at the same time and vice versa.
  • Cross-Sector Dialogue Meetings—In 1997, SAMHSA hosted the first of a series of dialogue meetings for mental health consumers and representatives from other groups to promote recovery and improve services. Consistent with SAMHSA’s focus on integrated behavioral health services, more recent dialogues have included peers in addiction recovery along with mental health consumers—working together as a unified recovery community, in dialogue with other stakeholders. The dialogue meetings have led to positive outcomes, including advances in collaboration, product development, training initiatives, and technical assistance. Learn more from publications related to cross-sector dialogue meetings.
  • Homelessness Programs and Resources—SAMHSA’s programs and resources work to end homelessness among people with mental and/or substance use disorders.
  • Olmstead Activities—SAMHSA provides technical assistance and other opportunities for states to learn about federal rules, regulations, and available resources to promote community integration and support Olmstead implementation and compliance:
  • Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH)—A state formula grant to engage people with serious mental illnesses, including those with co-occurring substance use disorders, who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless into needed services.
  • Recovery to Practice—Partners with behavioral health provider organizations to re-tool the workforce in recovery-based approaches.
  • National Recovery Month—Promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for substance use and mental disorders, celebrates people in recovery, and lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible.
  • Partners for Recovery—Seeks to improve services, systems of care and supports; and provides technical resources to those who deliver services to prevent and treat substance use and mental health conditions.
  • Wellness Initiative—Promotes the importance of addressing all parts of a person’s life in hopes of increasing life expectancy and a better quality of life for persons with behavioral health problems.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR) for People who are Homeless—Designed to increase access to the disability income benefit programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for eligible adults who are experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness, and have a mental illness and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder.
  • Voice Awards—Recognizes entertainment industry professionals and people in recovery who have given a voice to people with behavioral health problems.

Health and Wellness

Wellness incorporates many dimensions of health: physical, emotional, financial, social, occupational, intellectual, environmental, and spiritual. It is essential for quality of life and recovery. For people with mental and/or substance use disorders, wellness is much more than the absence of disease or illness, it is the presence of purpose in life, active involvement in satisfying work and play, joyful relationships, a healthy body, and a safe living environment.

SAMHSA promotes wellness for people with mental and substance use disorders by engaging, educating, and training providers, consumers/peers, and policy makers. SAMHSA also partners with other federal agencies to disseminate wellness messages and motivate individuals and community organizations to take action. Wellness promotion is important because people with mental and/or substance use disorders have high rates of co-morbidity and early mortality, and often die decades earlier than the general population due to preventable medical conditions and modifiable risk factors.

Since 2011, SAMHSA has partnered its wellness efforts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Million Hearts Initiative designed to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Million Hearts® brings together communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and private-sector partners from across the country to fight heart disease and stroke. Community organizations that engage in wellness activities receive technical assistance and are recognized annually during National Recovery Month.

SAMHSA funds a variety of grant programs for states, territories, tribes, and community-based organizations aimed at supporting the health and wellness of individuals with mental and/or substance use disorders. Among these are SAMHSA’s two block grant programs:

The 20% set-aside for prevention in the SABG and the SAMHSA Strategic Prevention Framework grants support prevention activities that increase protective factors and decrease risk factors to help stabilize families and communities, prevent mental and substance use disorders, and support recovery efforts. The 5% set-aside in the MHBG is designed to provide treatment for those with early onset of serious mental illness.

In addition, SAMHSA funds the System of Care for Children and Families cooperative agreements that are intended to support the availability and provision of mental health and related recovery support services to children and youth with emotional disturbances. This program also supports the implementation of systemic changes in policy, financing, services and supports, training and workforce development, and other areas that are necessary for expanding and sustaining the system of care approach.

SAMHSA and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) jointly fund the Center for Integrated Heath Solutions to promote integrated primary and behavioral health services to more effectively address the primary healthcare needs of individuals with mental and/or substance use disorders. The Center also assists SAMHSA’s Primary and Behavioral Health Care Integration grant program, which is testing effective means of providing primary care within community mental health treatment settings.

In addition, SAMHSA has been a key member of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Coordinating Council on Community Living and has funded technical assistance opportunities to assist states to implement rules and regulations associated with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The HHS Behavioral Health Coordinating Committee is charged with coordinating behavioral health activities across HHS, and has five subcommittees addressing early intervention, prescription drug abuse, teenage drinking, integrating behavioral health care with primary care, and behavioral health communications.

Through National Recovery Month, SAMHSA seeks to increase public education and awareness about the benefits of recovery from mental and/or substance use disorders. Communities across the nation can join this national observance by organizing and hosting Recovery Month events and by celebrating those in recovery, their families, their peer support systems and those who provide services to them.

Since 2007, SAMHSA has promoted recovery and wellness for people with mental health and substance use conditions by engaging, educating, and training providers, consumers, family members, researchers, and policy makers.

Supportive Housing

SAMHSA recognizes that housing is critical to recovery for people with mental and/or substance use disorders by promoting safe, affordable, and permanent supportive housing in the community with access to benefits and services for individuals, families, and communities that reduce the need for institutionalization or out-of-home placements.

SAMHSA is working with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness to support and implement Opening Doors, the federal strategy to prevent and end homelessness by providing technical support to grantees and other stakeholders related to behavioral health and homelessness.

Further, SAMHSA’s homelessness programs and resources are dedicated to sharing knowledge and best practices to prevent and end homelessness.

Permanent Supportive Housing is a model for individuals experiencing homelessness who are also experiencing mental illness, addiction, and other health conditions. Research and practice show that supportive housing increases housing stability and reduces costs.

For many in recovery from substance use disorders, short-term drug-free housing, such as recovery homes, is essential to achieving long-term recovery. For more information, download the Permanent Supportive Housing Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) KIT – 2010.

SAMHSA is working to ensure that housing and supportive services are available for people with mental and/or substance use disorders. It supports several programs to achieve that goal:

Data gathered by these programs show that participants experience less emotional distress and feel better about their ability to participate in life as a result of having stable housing. Participants are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, and have less involvement with the criminal justice system.

Employment and Education

Employment and education are both an outcome and a core component of recovery. SAMHSA’s Recovery Support emphasizes meaningful work and the ability to enhance skills through education for people in recovery from mental and/or substance use disorders and with the goal of increasing gainful employment and educational opportunities, while decreasing legal and policy barriers for individuals in recovery.

Most people with serious mental illnesses want to work and yet too often find little support in traditional community mental health programs. With support, individuals can work in competitive jobs or start their own businesses and increase their work activity and earnings over time.

The income employment produces enables people to improve their living situations, reducing exposure to violence and other stressors that may adversely affect behavioral health and recovery. Conversely, being unemployed is associated with increased rates of mental health issues—especially among men—and substance use.

Opportunities for education and employment for people with mental and/or substance use disorders are critical components of recovery that provide meaning and purpose to one’s life.

Research shows that about 70% of adults with serious mental illnesses who are unemployed have a strong desire to work and consider finding a job their top priority. Approximately 60% of people with behavioral health conditions can be successful at working when using supported employment services.

Research has shown that supported employment helps individuals achieve and sustain recovery. Supported employment occurs within the most integrated and competitive setting that enables individuals with disabilities to interact with people who do not have disabilities to the fullest extent possible. Integrated settings are those that provide individuals with disabilities opportunities to live, work, and receive services in the community, like individuals without disabilities. Supported employment has proven to be effective in helping people achieve and sustain recovery as they become increasingly self-sufficient.

Enhancing state and community capacity to provide supported employment programs for adults and youth with mental and/or substance use disorders is a priority for SAMHSA. For more information about supported employment, download the Supported Employment Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) KIT – 2010. In addition, the Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center Strategy (BRSS TACS) offers webinars related to employment and education.

SAMHSA established Transforming Lives through Supported Employment grants. The purpose of this program is to enhance state and community capacity to provide and expand evidence-based, supported employment programs to adults with serious mental illnesses, including people with co-occurring mental and substance use disorders.

Educational opportunities allow people in recovery to realize their intellectual potential, find meaningful work, achieve a higher quality of living, and participate fully in their community. One response to this need is the development of recovery schools that embrace the principles of recovery. Recovery schools help students remain abstinent through various programs of recovery, such as Twelve Step programs, and offer state-certified diplomas.

Supported education programs are services that assist individuals with behavioral health conditions gain access to and complete post-secondary education. Supported education can contribute in a very meaningful way to ensure that developmental steps can be mastered and individuals can go forward to develop careers or qualify for meaningful work, thus decreasing the possibility that they will experience economic hardship. Supported education is a consistently significant predictor of employment outcomes across populations.

Last Updated: 10/12/2018