State Leadership Conference

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Donna Shalala told APA's State Leadership Conference that her department is part of the "desperate search for ways in which we can reassure the states and the actuaries across this country that mental health services can be both high quality and affordable."

Shalala also told the audience of several hundred leaders from state psychology associations that she, too, has trouble with the "very powerful, independent actuary in [HHS] on issues of mental health," in her work to show that such care is affordable.

But she urged that people "have some confidence in their ability to put together these services at a high level of quality and be able to demonstrate that we can make them cost-effective at the same time."

The Secretary's remarks came at a luncheon address that marked the first time a cabinet-level public official has addressed an APA gathering. Shalala also told the audience that this year will see the largest increase in history in behavioral research across the federal government. In particular, she noted, the administration is requesting $60 million for behavioral cognitive research at the National Science Foundation for fiscal 2001, a 31 percent increase over the current level. At the National Institutes of Health, the administration has increased the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research by $6 million.

Looking toward her tenure's end with the close of the Clinton administration, Shalala said, "We are making sure that by the time I leave every institute will have a behavioral research program."

The HHS chief also indicated that the recent Surgeon General's report on mental health is serving as a foundation for a series of reports. By early summer, she said, Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, will issue a report on mental health related to race, ethnicity and culture. Later there will be reports on older people and people with disabilities.

Those documents, she said, will be aimed at "changing public policy in these areas by focusing specifically not only on what we know, but on what we need to do."

In conclusion, Shalala told the state officials, "It is our challenge, you and I, to make sure that the unquiet mind does not suffer quietly alone."