In Brief

How is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) responding to the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health's call to transform the country's mental health system? It's stepping up its focus on facilitating recovery and building resilience through substance abuse and mental health treatment, said SAMHSA Chief of Staff Gail Hutchings at APA's 2004 Annual Convention in Honolulu.

Hutchings, who stood in for scheduled speaker and SAMHSA administrator Charles Curie--called away on Department of Health and Human Services business--drew particular attention to the administration's myriad grant programs, including the Access to Recovery (ATR) grants, a state-run program that enables those seeking drug and alcohol treatment to use vouchers to pay for community-based substance abuse services, and the proposed mental health system transformation grants, designed to create comprehensive state mental health plans.

Other SAMHSA priorities, Hutchings noted, include initiating a "strategic prevention framework" for substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion, focusing on the needs of people with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders, increasing the use of scientific data to establish its programs and initiatives, closing the science-to-services gap and finding ways to reduce the stigma of mental health treatment. Hutchings delivered a message from Curie on how much SAMHSA values its collaborations and relationship with APA and expressed the need for increased mental health visibility in health policy-making.

"We've got to get the conversation about mental health in overall health-care conversations," she maintained.

APA's Public Interest Directorate sponsored a conversation hour with Hutchings after the session.

--J. CHAMBERLIN