SAMHSA helps communities across the nation enhance behavioral healthcare capacity
Thursday, November 6, 2014
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are partnering with universities, schools, and communities across the country in order to build local capacity to gather and share behavioral health information. The result of this partnership, the Community Early Warning and Monitoring System (CEMS), will upgrade systems of tracking behavioral health trends and enhance systems for responding to acute needs, such as those related to emergencies.
To create the CEMS, SAMHSA and the USDA will build upon existing collaborations with regional, state and local public service organizations -- such as USDA’s cooperative extension services -- to improve the gathering, analyses and sharing of data related to a wide range of mental and substance use disorder issues.
Through a USDA grant with Michigan State University, information will be also be collected and provided to SAMHSA and USDA on such key factors as:
What existing behavioral health surveillance systems are currently in place?
What kinds of data and support would be most helpful to communities facing different types of behavioral healthcare challenges?
What are the existing partners in the community that can help in gathering needed behavioral health data, and what kind of training might they need?
How much data will be needed to effectively help meet a community’s behavioral health needs?
These enhanced data gathering and analytic capabilities will allow a standardized assessment of community behavioral needs in emergency situations. This means that, in emergencies, the federal government, in collaboration with affected communities, could quickly assess the scope and nature of behavioral health needs and provide community officials with critical information to assist in determining how best to respond.
For example, in preparation for and in response to a natural disaster, federal responders would have a better understanding of the behavioral healthcare needs of a community (e.g., how many mental and substance use treatment programs are based in the community) and how they may be affected by the disaster. This understanding can help them develop plans to ensure that these needs are met as quickly and effectively as possible in the event of a disaster.
Together, SAMHSA and these communities can use this data to establish behavioral healthcare “benchmarks” for each community. These benchmarks will help community public health providers identify and prioritize communities’ behavioral healthcare needs and gauge the performance of programs used to address them.
To help communities improve their capacity to develop behavioral health data, SAMHSA will initially provide guidance and technical assistance. This assistance will focus on helping communities develop enhanced data collection processes and identifying the right data tools and measures as well as reporting mechanisms.
In addition, SAMHSA will develop a behavioral health epidemic surveillance program, modeled after CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service. This program will build SAMHSA’s capacity to be on the frontlines assisting communities during emergencies -- providing immediate insight, rapid response and comprehensive follow up for any behavioral healthcare issue that may arise. These emergencies may include natural or man-made disasters, or other phenomena such as increased deaths in a community or region related to a particular illicit substance, or the appearance of a suicide cluster.
“This is a significant advancement in public health efforts -- especially for many underserved communities across the nation that will now have state-of-the-art capabilities to assess their behavioral health needs,” said Dr. Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Services and Quality. “This additional behavioral health capability will also be of enormous importance at the national level – allowing new capabilities to anticipate and respond to behavioral health challenges at every level.”
For more information, contact the SAMHSA Press Office at 240-276-2130.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.
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