Wall Street Journal editorial on SAMHSA "shameful, deceptive, and untruthful"

4 Comments | Posted

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal published an unsigned editorial in their review and outlook section that eviscerates SAMHSA for how (as they state) "undermines treatment of the mentally ill."  Needless to say, there has been both outrage and support, especially in the midst of the current discussions around HR 3717 - Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Read the Wall Street Journal article and then read the Morning Zen post below from Guest contributor Jonathan Delman. Please share your comments on this most important topic!

Guest blog post ~ Jonathan Delman 

This editorial is shameful, and even worse deceptive and untruthful.

I know many people like me with multiple hospitalizations, lived in a halfway house for years, multiple meds (still on some of these) and ECT, having been on SSDI, and have achieved what I call a “solid state” of recovery, but clinical work got me only so far, with decent stabilizing improvement I was still miserable with suicidal ideation., etc. …. I got  into the recovery process for several reasons, a few most relevant ones I will state here:

I must say that when I look at people in recovery from or otherwise put living meaningful lives with severe mental illness, the keys are:

Difficult to address the latter, but it’s SAMHSA that has been phenomenal on the first two. And with peer specialist opportunities, I have seen people with severe mental illnesses change their lives dramatically.

The question raised here is “Which groups of people with SMI recover?”, if they do “What are the factors”, and if not “Why not?” We know something about this through the studies of Courtney Harding, Martin Harrow, et al.

These are fair questions, but this ghost written “editorial” is simply a long term public relations ploy of involving people quoted in the article.

Here at UMass. We have developed the Program for Recovery Research to  address in a systemic and thoughtful way these question, but we’re new and will take a bit to get to them.

As a consumer and person in recovery, I greatly appreciate the work of SAMHSA (even if I don’t always agree) and  this council in recognizing the psychosocial factors that in my view are almost necessary for recovery. We KNOW (through high quality research and personal reports) that many people do recover from severe mental illness (Maybe they should have talked to Ely Saks or Moe Armstrong). To attack supporting that reality is despicable, and there is no way mental health care would have prevented 90% of these terrible shootings.

With great respect,

Jon Delman 

delmanJonathan Delman, PhD, JD, MPH is an Assistant Research Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, and a principal at Reservoir Consulting Group. At UMass, Dr. Delman is the Director of the Program for Recovery Research, and the Associate Director for Participatory Action Research at the Transitions (to adulthood) Research and Training Center. Dr. Delman, himself a person with a mental illness, is considered a national expert on recovery-oriented care and measurement, peer support services, community based participatory action mental health research (CBPR), activating consumer participation in both treatment decisions and policy development, and transition age youth. He has regularly advised SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration), NIMH, and the state Department of Mental Health on these matters.

Dr. Delman is a 2008 recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leader award, one of ten awarded nationally, for “individuals who overcome daunting obstacles to improve health and health care in their communities.” He has received several awards from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health for “Distinguished Service”, and is a member of the editorial board of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal. Most recently, he was appointed to the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Developing Evidence-Based Standards for Psychosocial Interventions for Mental Disorders.


  1. Tim O'Leary's avatar
    Tim O'Leary
    | Permalink
    Amen Jon, Amen.
    The mental health system is changing and while not perfect, SAMHSA is one of the few organizations in the mental health community that is not afraid of the change, understands it and encourages it.

    Glad to see at least one good person from Montana agrees with ou.
  2. Joanne Gruskin's avatar
    Joanne Gruskin
    | Permalink
    If I begin, I fear I'll never finish, but...after each mass shooting, military or civilian, my first question is: Where were the mental health professionals?

    I hope I'm not mistaken in my belief that there will be some coverage for therapy under the Affordable Care Act. Therapy is expensive and some of the people who need it most can't afford it.

    The young man involved in the latest Fort Hood shooting saw a therapist about a month ago. Good therapy requires more than monthly sessions and must be accompanied by support.

    In our work with service dogs, we interviewed, among many others, people with PTSD who were helped by their service dogs. Not a cure-all, but a start for some.

    My personal story parallels yours, but we were the parents. In and out of hospitals, suicide attempts, misdiagnoses, I could go on. I remember one desperate day, saying to my husband, "This kid isn't going to kill me." And we're all still here.

    There are some people with mental illness who cannot and will not be helped by talking therapy. For them, medication is the salvation. But not one med. Trial and error, different combinations, varying doses, everything takes time, money and supervision.

    Can we help these people? I surely do hope so, but we must keep after the government to keep the funds flowing.
  3. Conni Wells's avatar
    Conni Wells
    | Permalink
    While I agree there is much in the article that is biased, I do agree that SAMHSA does have some issues that need attention. Often, policy stands between what should be done and what actually occurs. That policy is handed down from administration to administration, unchecked, not updated, and often misaligned with the current approach that carries a strong business, management, and accountability base. A lack of accountability and marginal oversight likely costs us millions of dollars in misspent/misused dollars that could be reinvested into worthy and proven programs. I would like to see some fine tuning...but certainly not a complete overhaul.
  4. Dan Aune's avatar
    Dan Aune
    | Permalink
    Thanks for your eloquent and informative response to the bias editorial of the Wallstreet Journal. HR 3717 - Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act is proving to pit us advocates against one another as we live in this world of scarcity and misunderstanding. Now is the time to seek first to understand, unite around common issues, and demand resources that promote the recovery model.

    Thank you,

    Dan Aune
    1. Leave a Comment