02:00am Wednesday 15 July 2020

SAMHSA introduces guidance changing its block grant programs to reflect new opportunities provided by parity, health reform and emerging science

“Changes in healthcare delivery structures, rapid adoption of health information technology, scientific advances in prevention and treatment services, growing understanding of recovery, and implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Affordable Care Act will greatly enhance access to prevention, treatment and recovery support services nationwide,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde,. J. D. “These changes also present opportunities to establish the role of the block grants as critical underpinnings of the public substance abuse and mental health service systems, drivers of quality and innovation, and essential resources for transforming health care in America, especially in difficult economic times.”

Under this new approach states and territories will have the opportunity to use block grant dollars for prevention, treatment, recovery supports and other services that supplement services covered by Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance. The Block Grant funds will be directed to four purposes:

Fund priority treatment and support services for individuals without insurance or for whom coverage is terminated for short periods of time.

  • Fund those priority treatment and support services not covered by Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance for low income individuals and that demonstrate success in improving outcomes and/or supporting recovery.
  • Fund primary prevention – universal, selective and indicated prevention activities and services for persons not yet identified as needing treatment.
  • Collect performance and outcome data to determine the ongoing effectiveness of behavioral health promotion, treatment and recovery support services and plan the implementation of new services on a nationwide basis.

SAMHSA will be working with states and territories to consider new factors in their redesigned plans such as:

  • Taking a broader approach in reaching beyond the populations they have historically served through block grants.
  • Conducting a needs assessment and developing a plan that will identify and analyze the strengths, needs and priorities of the state/territory’s behavioral health system – painting a more complete picture of their behavioral system.
  • Designing and developing collaborative plans for health information systems—grants and other funding.
  • Forming strategic partnerships to provide individuals better access to good and modern behavioral health services.
  • Increasing focus on recovery for person experiencing mental health problems and substance use problems.
  • Redesigning systems and services to be more accountable for improving the caliber and performance of services funded.
  • Describing tribal consultation activities.

Currently the two SAMHSA block grant programs have been administered somewhat differently by separate SAMHSA centers, and states have had idiosyncratic structures and timing for accepting, planning and accounting for these grants. In an effort to streamline application and funding procedures, SAMHSA is now issuing guidance promoting consistent application, assurance and reporting dates across both block grants and offering states and territories the option to submit one coordinated plan for both grants.

For detailed information about proposed changes to the block grant programs, including their application policies, one can go to http://samhsa.gov/grants/blockgrant/ or to the Federal register notice at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-04-11/pdf/2011-8520.pdf                      .



SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

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