UPDATED and Still URGENT: Support SAMHSA in Making Teens a Priority in Block Grants

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_megaphoneIf you care about adolescent substance abuse treatment (and mental health treatment), this is really important.
As I posted recently, SAMHSA is proposing big changes to its mental health and alcohol and drug treatment block grants. They want your comments by this Friday, June 3, 2011 June 9, 2011.
Ho-hum, right?
Far from it. We need you and everyone you know to submit comments to support SAMHSA's inclusion of adolescents/youth as a target population by Friday (see below for a draft message you can use or adapt).

>>Submit your email comments to SAMHSA the easy way, using this action alert from sparkaction.

Here's some context:

  • The block grants provide a significant proportion of funding for adolescent substance abuse treatment in this country. All that "state" funding that many treatment agencies depend on is actually passed through state agencies from SAMHSA.
  • The guidelines for how the block grants work will set funding -- and service -- priorities for years to come at the national and state level.

The good news is, SAMHSA specifically included youth with substance abuse issues as a priority population when it drafted its proposed changes to the block grants. Here's a direct quote from p. 20000 of the notice the agency published in The Federal Register seeking comments:

The focus of SAMHSA’s Block Grant programs has not changed significantly over the past 20 years. While many of these populations originally targeted for the Block Grants are still a priority, additional populations have evolving needs that should be addressed. These include military families, youth who need substance use disorder services, individuals who experience trauma, increased numbers of individuals released from correctional facilities, and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals. The uniform plan required in the Block Grant application must address the statutory populations (as appropriate for each Block Grant) and should address these other populations [emphasis added].

The bad news? Rumor has it that SAMHSA is getting pushback from some states who don't want to prioritize these special populations. We need to make sure that youth who need drug and alcohol services are not removed as a priority population -- we need to speak up, loud and clear, and support SAMHSA's original language. 
To do that, I'm asking you to take 2 minutes to send an email to SAMHSA by Friday, June 3, 2011 June 9, 2011. In this situation, policymakers at SAMHSA will be paying close attention to the number of comments they get that are "pro" and "con," so your comments will make a difference.  
Send your email to Summer King, SAMHSA Reports Clearance Officer (summer.king@samhsa.hhs.gov). Here's a suggested message:

Dear  Ms. King:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes to the SAMHSA block grants for community mental health services and substance abuse prevention and treatment. 

I want to commend SAMHSA for including adolescents who need treatment for substance abuse disorders as a priority population that should be addressed by block grant recipients.
As you know, teens are often overlooked and poorly-served by the general treatment system. According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 10.0 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 were current illicit drug users. The same year, 7.2% of youth aged 12-17 (or 1.8 million teens) needed treatment, but only 8.4 percent (or 150,000) received treatment at a specialty facility, leaving about 1.6 million untreated.

Furthermore, teens need specialized care, as adult models are ineffective with youth. Young people require developmentally appropriate treatment, which includes having their families involved in planning, implementation and monitoring of their progress. 

We can't wait until they're adults. As Michael Dennis, Senior Research Psychologist at Chestnut Health Systems, has noted, 90% of adults who meet clinical criteria for abuse or dependence of alcohol or drugs started using them under the age of 18, and met the criteria for abuse or dependence by the time they were 20 years old. By treating them as teens, we intervene early in a disease that otherwise costs society millions of dollars in justice system and health care spending.

I support your effort to focus policy and treatment on this critical population. 

[your name & contact info] 

Please do this as soon as you can -- thousands upon thousands of young people are counting on you!

Photo: xenia.
Hat tips: Mike Dennis at Chestnut Health Systems and Margaret Soukup, Reclaiming Futures project director in Seattle, WA.

Updated: February 08 2018