Morning Zen

Some People Punch the Clock in Federal Bureaucracies – Not Paolo del Vecchio

October 13, 2018

On October 10, 2018, Paolo del Vecchio, Director, Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), announced to the CMHS National Advisory Council that he was moving to another position within SAMHSA effective October 15th. In this Morning Zen post, National Advisory Council member, Dennis Embry, shares a note of appreciation and gratitude to Mr. del Vecchio.

Some people punch the clock in federal bureaucracies. Other people in Washington, DC get up every day to save the world, and they make a serious difference.  It’s not easy in any bureaucracy—especially in one attempting to prevent, intervene, treat and facilitate recovery from substance abuse and mental illnesses. It’s damn hard to do that in any capacity, let alone in the massive bureaucracy of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, heading up the Center for Mental Health Services.  That’s what Paulo Paolo del Vecchio did with many accomplishments in the last six years.  Here are just some of his accomplishments over the last six years:

  • Establishing nearly 300 First Episode Psychosis programs across the nation;
  • Reducing chronic homelessness, expanding supported housing, and reaching 200,000 individuals each year living in our streets and shelters through the PATH program;
  • Initiating major new programs in areas such as integrated care, criminal justice, AOT, ACT, CCBHCs, tribal suicide prevention, supported employment, clinically high-risk youth and trauma;
  • Responding to the mental health needs of multiple major natural and man-made disasters;
  • Helping respond to mental-health crises and preventing the tragedy of suicide including responding to over 2 million calls to SAMSHA’s Lifeline;
  • Expanding prevention and promotion including major efforts in school-based mental health, mental health literacy, and early childhood supports;
  • Bringing recovery, wellness and peer/family support to the forefront of mental-health reform; and
  • Raising public awareness around the mental health needs of Americans through efforts such as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, the Older Adult Mental Health Awareness Day, and the Voice Awards.

It’s my privilege to be on the National Advisory Council for the Center for Mental Health Services, at SAMSHA.  Paulo is a keen person of passion, and grace—even chiding me about my fierce commitment to gold-standard science and practice, over deference to bureaucratic authority.  With the growing epidemic of psychiatric disorders in America documented in the 2009 IOM report and other data, the steady, compassionate and strategic thinking of Paulo’s leadership will be missed across the country.  It will take a very big heart, extraordinary intelligence and grace to fill Paulo’s shoes. As a clinician, a scientist, a family member, and a fierce advocate, thank you, Paulo, for your service to help improve the mental health of children, teens, adults and their families in America.

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About the Author

Dennis Embry

Dennis Embry is a prominent prevention scientist in the United States and Canada, trained as clinician and developmental and child psychologist. He is president/senior scientist at PAXIS Institute in Tucson and co-investigator at Johns Hopkins University and the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. Dr. Embry serves as a National Advisory Council member and Chief Science Advisor to the Children’s Mental Health Network. His work and that of colleagues is cited in 2009 the Institute of Medicine Report on The Prevention of Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People. Clinically his work has focused on children and adults with serious mental illnesses. In March 2014, his work and the work of several signatories was featured in a Prime-TV special on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation on the prevention of mental illnesses among children—which have become epidemic in North America.

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