A New Way Forward for SAMHSA

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A New Way Forward for SAMHSA

Established in 1992, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) works as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to deal with the issues of mental health and substance abuse in the United States. They do this by holistically providing resources and education that can support issues related to the prevention, treatment, and recovery of people struggling with substance abuse.

According to SAMHSA’s own research, almost 20 million people are in need of substance abuse treatment but do not receive it. That is just one of the main challenges the government agency is seeking to meet as it searches for the best ways to change our society to better equip people to avoid or get treatment for addiction issues.

Using rigorous scientific evidence to determine what really works, SAMHSA is seeking to promote a variety of new methods to deal with substance abuse. To that end, they recently created a document entitled “Leading Change 2.0:Advancing the Behavioral Health of the Nation.” In the pages of this report, they outline steps and goals for the next four years.

Central vision:

Leading Change 2 begins by stating it’s clear belief that “prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover.” Their research gives reason to have tremendous confidence in the ability of people struggling with an addiction to be able to lead fulfilled sober lives if they enter an effective recovery program. However, it would be even better if people susceptible to addiction would be able to avoid substance abuse entirely.

For that reason, SAMHSA is seeking to deal with the problem of addiction from two different points of attack, both expanding treatment options so people in need of recovery have access to the help they need, and prioritizing prevention, so that it no longer claims so many lives. Through their work in advocacy, research, education, and supplying grants to community organizations, SAMHSA is trying to create a world where the best solutions to the problems of substance abuse are put into place where they can be most effective.


There are certain groups of people at higher risk of developing substance abuse problems, including teenagers, people at lower income levels, people with mental health issues, and LGBT individuals. Prevention seeks to deal with these challenges and disparities by working with both educational efforts and healthcare services to better meet the needs of people in these groups, so they will avoid the costly mistake of drug use or underage drinking.

One of the many examples of SAMHSA’s work in this area is “Talk. They Hear You,” a smartphone app that allows parents to role play talking with their kids about drinking and alcohol. Through an interactive simulation, the parents can practice bringing the topic up, and learn the best ways to get the important message across. Through their efforts, they hope to reduce the number of people engaging in substance abuse.

Health Care Integration

Even with many people experiencing expanded access to health care due to the Affordable Care Act, many people continue to lack access for important health care needs, especially those related to substance abuse or mental health. Recognizing that treatment for addiction and mental health problems is an essential part of a person’s overall health, this initiative is seeking to expand the amount of access for recovery services.

Recovery Support

According to the SAMHSA document, there are four areas of a person’s life that need to be cared for in order to sustain a former addict’s path to recovery and sobriety. First is health, or allowing those in recovery to make informed decisions about the best ways to care for their physical selves. Second is a home, defined as a safe and sustainable environment in which to work and live.

Third is purpose, or a life defined by meaningful activities such as school, work, and enjoyable hobbies that are life giving to self and community. Finally, an indispensable part of each person’s recovered life is community, or a network of supportive friends and family. By seeking to work with each addict’s environment and meeting these needs, we give a source of hope and encouragement to help people in recovery get their lives back.