SAMHSA’s Push for Treatment for Women of Color

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SAMHSA's Push for Treatment for Women of Color

Issues of substance abuse and mental illness do not just affect the individual involved, but have a larger impact on the community as a whole. Since 1992, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has been working in education and public health, and all areas of government, to help advance mental and behavioral health in the U.S.

It is a complex, multifaceted issue with no easy fixes or magic bullets, but that touches and affects every area of life. Addiction does not discriminate and can happen to anyone, but diverse experiences and contexts can dramatically affect the way a person’s life is harmed by drug use.

In particular, the unique situations, challenges, and marginalization (and often double marginalization of being both a woman and an ethnic minority) of women of color create situations that require more attention in the recovery community. That is why gender-appropriate and culturally responsive care can be a very important factor in helping a willing participant in her recovery journey. Knowing this, SAMHSA has announced a focus on programs that focus on expanding and increasing services for addiction, HIV treatment, and drug courts for high-risk minority women.

The Problem:
In spite of some strides and progress, our society continues to have unforgivable disparities in quality of life for many people on the basis of gender or race and ethnicity. These issues can affect how substance abuse and addiction affects people’s lives, but many well-intentioned recovery programs do not give adequate attention to these issues.

The majority of people seeking substance abuse treatment are white and male, and so many women belonging to a minority group in need of recovery treatment may have a harder time feeling comfortable or finding treatment that meets their needs. Gender-based and culture-based issues, such as childcare and family support, may not always be adequately addressed if the recovery program or counselors are not adequately aware of their issues.

In particular, women of color are often more likely than men to have a co-occurring mental health issue alongside their substance abuse. That is why it is so important for people invested and concerned about recovery to be open to learning about the experiences of women of color to adjust their programs to better meet their needs, and provide a truly safe space for their healing.

The Grants:
On March 8, 2016, SAMHSA issued an announcement to substance abuse treatment professionals that it had plans to give away $81 million in grants to organizations that can improve access to evidence-based treatment for substance abuse and HIV treatment. The grants come in two sets, each with a different focus.

The first is for substance abuse and HIV treatment focusing on black, Hispanic, and Native American women. The expanded services should help both women and their partners with addiction. They should also recognize the complex factors, and be open to treatment for lesbian and bisexual women, former inmates, women with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders, and those living with or at high risk for HIV/AIDS. SAMHSA expects to issue up to $500,000 per year for three years to 22 selected organizations.

The second sets of grants are focus on expanding and improving substance abuse treatment in alternative courts. These drug courts help people convicted of drug or alcohol related crimes get access to treatment as alternatives to jail time. It reduces unhelpful incarceration, and expands access to needed treatment that can truly change people’s lives. Grants will fund up to 50 organizations with up to $325,000 per year for three years.

Applications must be submitted through grants.gov. Grants for the first set, focused on addiction issues for minority women and their partners must be submitted by April 29, 2016. Grants for drug-court related programs must be submitted by April 4. More information about how to apply can be found through http://www.samhsa.gov/grants/applying.

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