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Post by Former NIMH Director Thomas Insel: SAMHSA and NIMH Partner to Support Early Intervention for Serious Mental Illness

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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) are proud to support the important work being done in communities across the country to help those facing mental illness. We are collaborating to foster early intervention for serious mental illness. Early intervention is critical to treating mental illness before it can cause tragic results like serious impairment, unemployment, homelessness, poverty, and suicide. The MHBG 5% Set Aside, is a partnership between the federal government and states to direct 5 percent of the state’s Mental Health Block Grant (MHBG) allocation administered by SAMHSA to support “evidence-based programs that address the needs of individuals with early serious mental illness, including psychotic disorders.”

To prepare states to implement the set-aside, SAMHSA provided states with guidance and along with NIMH has held national webinars to inform states of the evidence-based components of coordinated specialty care. In addition, SAMHSA and NIMH will be providing technical assistance and technical resources to states as they develop and implement their plan set aside funds. In the future, states around the country will have programs in place to intervene quickly if you or someone you care about experiences the onset of a serious mental illness.

At the same time, SAMHSA is working with NIMH to review evidence and determine the most effective ways to reduce the impact of first episode mental illnesses and promote recovery. NIMH is completing its Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) research initiative. RAISE is designed to reduce the likelihood of long-term disability that people with schizophrenia often experience, and to help people with the disorder lead productive, independent lives. RAISE, along with many SAMHSA programs, also aims to reduce the financial impact on public systems often tapped to pay for the care of people with schizophrenia, such as criminal justice, disability, and housing/homelessness service systems.

Right now, much of the mental health treatment and recovery in our country is focused on the later stages of illness, intervening only when things have reached the level of a crisis. While this kind of treatment is critical, it is also costly in terms of increased financial burdens on public and private service providers, lost economic productivity, and the toll taken on individuals and families. If America is going to truly address mental illness, we need to do more when people first experience these conditions to prevent long-term adverse consequences.

This blog is also posted on SAMHSA’s Blog.