Now that the comment period has closed for Leading Change: A Plan for SAMHSA’s Roles and Actions 2011 – 2014, SAMHSA is reviewing the feedback received and developing a final version of this plan. Nearly 3000 people participated in SAMHSA’s web-based Strategic Initiatives Forum, submitting almost 2500 ideas and comments and casting more than 23,000 votes. In addition SAMHSA staff, Federal partners, stakeholder groups, and National Advisory Council members provided written feedback. This level of participation and comment is gratifying and underscores the importance of SAMHSA’s mission.
So far the comments cover a wide range of topics, from specific policy suggestions, such as ending the Institutions for Mental Disease Exclusion under Medicaid, to broad concerns, such as addressing the connection between mental and substance use disorders and criminal justice involvement. Through the voting process, participants in our online forum expressed their support for ideas such as self-direction from consumers and people in recovery and the use of assisted outpatient treatment. Because of the attention paid to these to two opposing concepts, SAMHSA will convene a dialogue in the future to better understand the implications of different approaches and chart a path forward.
Of the 2500 ideas and comments submitted online some issues were more frequently cited, such as:
- Including consumers, survivors, and people in recovery in decision making at all levels;
- Improving employment outcomes for people with mental and substance use disorders;
- Addressing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder;
- Exploring alternatives to psychiatric medication;
- Strengthening the behavioral health workforce; and
- Meeting the needs of a variety of groups including people with disabilities; underserved racial and ethnic groups; American Indians and Alaskan Natives; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people; children; youth; and older Americans.
SAMHSA will be working to extract common themes, incorporate suggestions, and produce a final version as soon as possible. Unfortunately, SAMHSA does not have the resources to address every issue that was raised. This means making hard choices about competing priorities. Some of the feedback addresses existing commitments at SAMHSA that did not come through in the current paper but will be better reflected in the final text. In other cases SAMHSA will amend these initiatives to address topics suggested through the comment process. SAMHSA may also engage other Federal partners who have primary responsibility for some of the suggested areas of focus.
SAMHSA staff are humbled by the time and energy that so many people put into this process. Even if specific ideas are not reflected in the final version of the paper, they may contribute to the development of SAMHSA’s initiatives and other work in the future.
Thank you for your continued interest and support. Together we will accomplish SAMHSA’s mission, to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.