SAMHSA is focused on improving mental health across the lifespan and has worked with the National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging and the Administration on Aging/Administration for Community Living for over a decade to address the concerns of states, provider organizations, individuals, and families related to the mental health and substance use disorder needs of older adults. SAMHSA recognizes that older adults have needs that require special attention and training in order to provide the best care and treatment.
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I write this today not to provide a listing of programs that my agency has funded nor an update on how we are doing in addressing the opioid crisis. I write this as a physician seeking the help of my fellow physicians and healthcare colleagues around the country.
Many of you are very familiar with the efforts that we, in the government, have put forward to stem the tide of the opioid crisis. States and communities have done the same across the country. Our commitment is real, but it is also potentially futile if we do not have providers out there, on the front lines, willing to take on treating the population of Americans living with opioid use disorder.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data on the ten leading causes of death in the United States recently. Tragically, suicide—too often a consequence of untreated mental illness and substance use disorders, and as such a preventable condition—remains on that list as the 10th leading cause of death for adults and the second-leading cause of death in our youth. Suicide rates increased from 29,199 deaths in 1996 to 47,173 deaths in 2017.
What are the contributors to the state of mind that ends in a person taking their own life? What can government do about this? What responsibility do we have to each other to take actions that will alter this course? These are questions of great importance, because rising deaths by suicide say something about the conditions under which our people live and die and about our society at large.
Treatment for opioid use disorder is a process that should be carefully managed by a patient and their health care team. This is especially true for women who are pregnant or have newborn children. Fortunately, medication-assisted treatment can be provided during pregnancy and after childbirth and this is often the safest treatment with the best outcome for baby and mother. To assist patients and care provides with learning about options and planning the treatment that is best for other and baby, SAMHSA has published Healthy Pregnancy Healthy Baby fact sheets.
From a Physician Assistant in Fairbanks to a Vending Machine in Interior Alaska: Witnessing Tribal Health Solutions Firsthand
After visiting tribal communities in interior Alaska, Deputy Secretary Hargan praised the quality of care at Alaska Native health facilities.
A key piece to success in serving the American people involves going to them in person and hearing what is important in their lives. That was the reason that a large delegation from HHS recently made the trip to the interior of Alaska.
The opioids crisis is affecting communities across the nation. The disease of opioid use disorder does not discriminate. As the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, I believe strongly that we must do all we can to stem the tide of this crisis; however, I believe we must take measured, well-thought-out and responsible steps to do this.
The temptation to develop seemingly quick solutions is understandable but I urge the nation to proceed instead with caution.