SAMHSA Strategic Initiatives up for review after 2014 - let's get children's mental health front and center

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Network faithful know how chagrined we have been at the lack of prominence of children's mental health in the eight strategic initiatives set forth by SAMHSA to guide their planning efforts through 2014. When the strategic initiatives were first announced several years ago the Children's Mental Health Network was just an idea but those of us working in the children's mental health arena were not thrilled that one needed a magnifying glass to root out any direct reference to children's mental health in what would be SAMHSA's guiding document through 2014. To be fair, there was ample opportunity for children's mental health advocates to express their thoughts during the public input phase, but quite frankly, other than the efforts of a handful of advocates, we as a collective voice, did a lousy job of advocating for a more prominent focus. Yes, one can make the argument (and many have) that you can tease out plenty of references to children's mental health in the SAMHSA strategic initiatives but that is not good enough for us. We fear the old saying "out of sight out of mind" will come true if we don't raise our voices and push hard for a more prominent focus.

One of our eagle-eye Advisory Council members pointed out the other day that the initiatives are designed to guide SAMHSA's work through 2014. That means there should be another round of public comment and discussion when SAMHSA starts planning for 2015 and beyond. So, instead of whining about the lack of focus on children's mental health, Network faithful can do something about it. Let's get a head start on this and write a strategic initiative focus for SAMHSA that prominently focuses on children's mental health. Read the existing strategic initiatives below and then share your ideas in the comment section below for what you would like to see different. Let's not be complacent on this one folks, whether they realize it or not, SAMHSA needs our help on this one.

The SAMHSA strategic initiatives include:

  1. Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness -- Creating communities where individuals, families, schools, faith-based organizations, and workplaces take action to promote emotional health and reduce the likelihood of mental illness, substance abuse including tobacco, and suicide. This initiative will include a focus on the nation’s high-risk youth, youth in Tribal communities, and military families.
  2. Trauma and Justice -- Reducing the pervasive, harmful, and costly health impact of violence and trauma by integrating trauma-informed approaches throughout health, behavioral health, and related systems and addressing the behavioral health needs of people involved in or at risk of involvement in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
  3. Military Families -- Supporting America’s service men and women -- active duty, National Guard, Reserve, and veteran -- together with their families and communities by leading efforts to ensure that needed behavioral health services are accessible and that outcomes are positive.
  4. Recovery Support -- Partnering with people in recovery from mental and substance use disorders and family members to guide the behavioral health system and promote individual-, program-, and system-level approaches that foster health and resilience; increase permanent housing, employment, education, and other necessary supports; and reduce discriminatory barriers.
  5. Health Reform -- Increasing access to appropriate high quality prevention, treatment, and recovery services; reducing disparities that currently exist between the availability of services for mental and substance use disorders compared with the availability of services for other medical conditions; and supporting integrated, coordinated care, especially for people with behavioral health and other co-occurring health conditions such as HIV/AIDS.
  6. Health Information Technology -- Ensuring that the behavioral health system, including States, community providers, and peer and prevention specialists, fully participates with the general health care delivery system in the adoption of health information technology (HIT) and interoperable electronic health records (EHRs).
  7. Data, Outcomes, and Quality -- Realizing an integrated data strategy and a national framework for quality improvement in behavioral health care that will inform policy, measure program impact, and lead to improved quality of services and outcomes for individuals, families, and communities.
  8. Public Awareness and Support -- Increasing the understanding of mental and substance use disorders and the many pathways to recovery to achieve the full potential of prevention, help people recognize mental and substance use disorders and seek assistance with the same urgency as any other health condition, and make recovery the expectation.

See what we mean? Ya need a magnifying glass to find reference to children's mental health. Share your ideas for a rewrite below.

Scott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network

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