Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Press Release: Open Letter to President-Elect Obama Regarding the Selection of the Administrator of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Adminis

Dear Colleagues:

The letter regarding the importance of professional leadership of SAMHSA is now off to Presdent Obama. You can still sign on if you haven't and view the list of signatories at www.andrewtatarsky.com/samhsaletter/.

Please disseminate the press release that is copied below and attached to any press you think may be interested in covering this story.

Thank you for your continuing support of this very important issue.

Andrew Tatarsky, PhD


For Immediate Release:
March 23, 2009

Contact: Andrew Tatarsky, PhD (212) 633-8157

Dozens of prominent substance use and mental health treatment and research professionals urge President Obama to break with recent administrations and appoint a professional with expertise in the science of substance use, mental health and public health to direct the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). They urge the President to appoint a leader to SAMSHA who supports evidence-based and theoretically sound treatments and will make decisions based on science rather than ideology and politics.

To fix SAMHSA’s chronic dysfunction, strong scientific and professional credentials are seen as key to insure that the agency’s $3.3 billion budget is best spent to effectively address the treatment and prevention of mental illness and addiction. The past two decades have seen dramatic scientific advances in understanding mental illness and addiction which have led to the development of effective treatments and prevention programs. Unfortunately, these treatments are not reaching the vast majority of the public who need them. It is noted that the United States spends about $120 billion on behavioral health care but a government review of SAMHSA, the agency responsible for overseeing this area of healthcare, rated the agency’s programs as largely ineffective and that much more could be accomplished with this money. Only 1 out of every 4 of these dollars is spent on evidence-based care with the rest going toward treatments and programs of questionable value. Many politicians including Congressman and Senators who sit on relevant oversight committees have never heard of SAMSHA, despite the fact that SAMSHA is on the same organizational level in the Public Health Service as CDC and FDA.

One major reason for SAMSHA’s obscurity and dysfunction has been the failure to appoint a person with significant scientific and professional expertise to lead the agency. Past administrators have been drawn from the ranks of state government with experience in community action, but without recognized high level scientific mental health, addiction, and public health expertise. These professionals say that it is essential to have the highest caliber professional leading the agency in the fight to improve the lives of all those who struggle with mental health problems and the consequences of substance abuse and to assure that government money works for the benefit of all Americans. They call on the Obama transition team to appoint a professional with a national reputation of excellence as a scientist and innovator in implementing science-based and theoretically sound mental health, addiction and public health programs in communities.

To view the letter and view the list of signatories, go to: www.andrewtatarsky.com/samhsaletter/

For further information or to arrange interviews with Andrew Tatarsky, the organizer of this campaign, or any of the other signatories call 212-633-8157 or email atatarsky@aol.com.

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