In 1976 President Gerald Ford honored the contributions of black Americans by issuing a proclamation that officially marked February as African American History Month. This proclamation continued to be issued by every president that followed. For the 2019 celebration, SAMHSA recognizes three leaders who have had significant impact on the mental health of their communities and beyond and have been important contributors to SAMHSA’s efforts to advance behavioral health equity for African Americans.
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November is National Native American Heritage Month. During this time, we celebrate and pay tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. We also shine a spotlight on some of the unique needs of their communities and some of the health disparities they face. Health outcomes for these communities are worse than the larger U.S. population in many ways. Whether it is from a higher rate of unintentional injuries, suicide or chronic liver disease, the life expectancy of American Indian and Alaskan Natives is five and a half years less than the larger U.S. population. SAMHSA is partnering with tribes and tribal organizations to reduce health disparities and promote better overall health.
In or out of uniform, many service members return home to communities where they continue to lead and contribute. For some military personnel, returning home can be challenging. And the impact of deployment and trauma-related stress not only affects military members and veterans but also their families and others who may provide support.
Every day, across our country, individuals are dying from mental and substance use disorders. I returned to SAMHSA to do everything I could to ensure that American families and communities do not continue to lose their loved ones to these preventable and treatable conditions. As the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, I take very seriously my responsibility to ensure that every dollar entrusted to SAMHSA by the American public is used in the most effective manner possible.As a physician, I have seen firsthand the urgent need for funding and the programs that SAMHSA provides. I have treated many patients whose lives are dependent on the types of services SAMHSA funding generates.
Summary: Jean Bennett says one of her main jobs as a SAMHSA official is making sure that when there is a conversation about health, behavioral health is at the table.