Morning Zen

Blended grants – The homogenization of family and youth voice has begun…

June 13, 2014

The latest grant announcement from SAMHSA caught my eye, and I found myself muttering under my breath, “Okay, here we go. The homogenization of family and youth voice has begun.”  

SAMHSA has just released an RFA for fiscal year (FY) 2014 Statewide Peer Networks for Recovery and Resiliency grants. Eligible applicants are SAMHSA Network grantees in the nine states where there is an RCSP-SN award and either one or both a Statewide Consumer Network  and Statewide Family Network. The kicker is they have to submit an application together. 

In the description it states that the purpose of the grant program is to:

  • Create statewide networks that represent mental health and addictions recovery communities to improve access to and the quality of behavioral health systems, services, treatment and recovery supports statewide.
  • Bridge and unify recovery networks for mental health consumers, families of children with serious emotional disturbance and youth, as well as those in recovery from addictions.  
  • Link formal statewide substance abuse recovery networks with formal statewide networks representing mental health consumers and families to represent a single voice for behavioral health statewide.

The funds for this effort are coming out of CSAT so Statewide Family Network grantees can breathe – the funds are not coming out of the pot that covers current Statewide Family Networks. But don’t get too comfortable. This grant announcement looks like a clear example of the long-anticipated move by SAMHSA to merge program efforts together where possible and create “one voice for behavioral health” as they state in the description.

I must be getting’ old cuz I feel like I have been to this rodeo before. Let’s see, oh yes, it was 1988, and a group of rowdy parents had the nerve to say “Our issues are getting lost and not addressed by providers, communities and current children’s mental health advocacy voices.” Hence, the birth of the National Federation of Families for Children’s Health, that began its work under a mission to provide a different voice for families. A voice that spoke directly to those parents who had children young and old, with mental health challenges in school, home and community, and not just those who had a serious mental illness and were approaching adulthood.

Come to think of it, there was a similar rodeo that I first encountered in the early 1980’s that has progressively gotten worse leading up to current day. Fairly consistently I have heard the lament from state level Children’s Mental Health Directors that they are at the bottom of the funding food chain. Heck, in some states, they have completely done away with specific children’s mental health sections. And I just love the politically correct euphemisms used to camouflage the eradication of a clear children’s mental health voice by using wonderful descriptors to describe consolidation efforts like  “Community Policy Management,” “Advocacy and Customer Service,” Community Services Division,” and dare I say it, “Behavioral Health.”

Remember folks, the train known as health care reform has left the station. We are entering the new age of rampant consolidation in an effort to save money. With all of the wonderful components of the ACA that are afforded to people in this country, one of the potential, and increasingly visible, casualties is the loss of a clear voice for children’s mental health. We can’t let that happen.

What Network Faithful can do 
First, let’s applaud SAMHSA for trying this approach out in nine states. Who knows, it may work incredibly well, and that would be a wonderful thing. But let’s not leave this one up to chance. I want to encourage all Network faithful to pay attention to how these grant efforts roll out. You can bet that our good friends in the substance abuse and consumer movement communities will be paying attention. We need to be vigilant as well.

We will keep you posted on developments (who applies, who gets funded) as they emerge. For now, if you are in one of the nine states and are eligible, we hope you apply. Gotta be in the game if you are going to be part of the change.

And the change is a comin’.

scottScott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO
Children’s Mental Health Network


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