Tuesday, August 19, 2014

APA Responds to Several Issues in SAMHSA's New Strategic Plan

APA yesterday urged the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to develop explicit goals for promoting evidence-based best practices, including psychiatric care, for treatment of people with serious mental illness as part of the agency’s draft strategic plan for 2015-2018.

“APA is strongly concerned about the lack of explicit recognition of the psychiatric treatment needs for Americans suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders, and in particular for the 13 million Americans who suffer from debilitating serious mental illnesses,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., in a statement responding to the plan.

The APA response also pointed out that despite current and projected future shortages of psychiatrists, “historically, SAMHSA has not included psychiatrists in its proposals for increased workforce development,” said Levin. “APA recommends that SAMHSA prioritize its advocacy and programmatic activities concerning the development and training of a robust psychiatrist workforce.”

APA praised SAMHSA’s goal of promoting adoption of electronic health records, but Levin also noted that many mental health care providers and facilities were excluded from the HITECH Medicare and Medicaid health information technology adoption incentive.

APA also expressed concern about the inconsistent implementation of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, and as a remedy for this concern, urged SAMHSA to develop educational materials explaining parity implementation for patients, providers, but most especially, for government officials responsible for enforcing the law.

"It is essential for SAMHSA to focus on the medical care needs of patients with serious mental illness," APA President Paul Summergrad, M.D., told Psychiatric News. "The critical role of scientifically based care provided by psychiatrists also requires far greater emphasis, as does support for psychiatric workforce development. Patients and families suffering with these very disabling conditions deserve nothing less." 

Read APA's complete response to the SAMHSA strategic plan here. A draft of SAMHSA's plan is posted here.

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