Pathways RTC Abruptly De-Funded by SAMHSA
September 30, 2019
September 30, 2019
I learned some alarming news this week that should raise concern among children’s mental health advocates involved with federally funded initiatives. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), an agency within the federal Department of Health and Human Services, has abruptly cut funding to a research center at Portland State University that has had great success in promoting mental health and well-being for young adults who experience serious mental health disabilities.
The question that remains unanswered is why?
Here is What We Know
The Pathways Research and Training Center (Pathways RTC) at Portland State University was created ten years ago to develop new service and policy strategies so that service providers, families, and other community members could more effectively support these young adults and increase their well being. Pathways RTC—together with other RTCs focused on mental health—was jointly funded by two federal agencies: SAMHSA and NIDILRR (National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research). After a rigorous competition, three RTCs (including the RTC at PSU) were identified as the most successful candidates for three available research center grants. However, at the last minute, and not because of any budgetary need, SAMHSA decided to cut all funding to the RTC program. The result is that the Pathways RTC at Portland State University (Oregon) will be closing.
The Question Remains – Why Shut Down a Program That is Showing Success?
There has been no discernible reason given, at least that I have been able to find. Let me know if you have information that would help explain what appears to be a knee-jerk decision at best.
We know that young adults are the segment of the population that is most likely to experience a serious mental health disability, but they are also the least likely to engage in mental health services, even when services are available to them. Young adults often find that typical mental health services—designed for children or older adults—are not appropriate for their stage of life. Providing appropriate and engaging treatment to young adults can profoundly alter their life trajectories, improving their well being and the likelihood that they will be employed and self-sufficient, and decreasing their use of costly settings such as psychiatric hospitals, emergency rooms, and prison.
Pathways RTC has been highly productive and influential during its existence. For example, Pathways researchers have developed programs and interventions, and then tested them, providing evidence that they are effective. These include programs/interventions that significantly improve:
Pathways researchers have also developed and rigorously tested training approaches that ensure that service providers have the skills to work effectively with young adults. These trainings are offered through innovative, cost-effective modalities—including web-based interactive modules and web-based “remote” skills coaching using video recordings. Hundreds of providers have participated in these trainings, and Pathways research has provided evidence of the effectiveness of each training.
Finally, Pathways has developed an extensive, efficient and effective set of strategies for keeping stakeholders informed about the latest research, and about how this research can be useful to them immediately in their work and lives. Pathways’ website receives more than 40,000 visits each year, with visitors downloading more than 32,000 pdf documents, from research summaries to tip sheets to info-comics. Pathways sends out a monthly e-newsletter to more than 5,500 subscribers, as well as a yearly research digest to 18,000+ subscribers. Quarterly webinars average over 300 attendees each.
Pathways Research and Training Center has been an important part of the national response to the current crisis surrounding how best to support and treat young adults with mental health disorders. The loss of this resource will rob families and young adults of much-needed support and information and reduce the flow of information to service providers and policymakers.
If you are not familiar with Pathways, take some time to visit their website (https://www.pathwaysrtc.pdx.edu/). We feature their materials frequently in Friday Update. Top notch!
If You Are Unhappy with the Impact of SAMHSA’s Decision to Cut This Funding, It’s Time to Speak Out!
I encourage you to write an email to HHS Secretary Alex Azar to encourage him to have SAMHSA reconsider their decision.
HHS Office of the Secretary
Alex Azar, Secretary
Important: Be sure to copy the following people on your email to Secretary Azar:
Who Else Should You Contact?
United States Senate
Directory of Representatives
Included below is suggested language for you to adapt from when emailing your representatives about the impact of SAMHSA’s funding cut on youth and young adult mental health. Fill in your own details where needed:
Subject Line: SAMHSA Should Continue Funding Mental Health RTCs
I am writing to you to express my concern about SAMHSA’s recent decision to end its financial support for the Research and Training Centers on mental health that it has co-funded with NIDILRR since 1984. As a result of this change, the funding to the Pathways Research and Training Center (RTC) at Portland State University has been discontinued. I urge you to reconsider your decision and to restore the funding for all three Centers that SAMHSA has co-funded with NIDILRR so successfully.
I am a [choose one or add your own: young adult with lived experience with mental health challenges, a parent of a young adult with mental health challenges, a fellow researcher, a service provider who works with young adults with mental health challenges, etc.] and I [describe your connection to Pathways RTC].
[Select from the following points:]
You could also include information such as the following:
I urge you to reconsider your decision and reinstate funding for the Centers so that they can continue their valuable efforts to improve employment and life outcomes for people who experience mental health conditions.
We have received a number of comments from people wishing to remain anonymous related to the de-funding of Pathways and are including them here. We encourage you to add to the conversation. Click on the comments link at the bottom of this page and add your thoughts. If you wish to remain anonymous, send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous comments are included here.
My passion is helping to shape policy and practice in children’s mental health. For the past 40 years, my journey as a mental health advocate has traveled from volunteering at a suicide and crisis center, professional roles as a therapist in an outpatient clinic, in-home family therapist, state mental health official, Board Chair for a county mental health program, and national reviewer of children’s mental health systems reform efforts. As the founder of the Children’s Mental Health Network (2009), I lead the Network’s efforts to grow a national online forum for the exchange of ideas on how to continually improve children’s mental health research, policy and practice.