The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration


Agency Overview

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s)vision as an agency of the Federal Government is "A Life in the Community for Everyone." This vision is based on the
premise that people of all ages, with or at risk for mental or substance use disorders, should have the opportunity for a fulfilling life that includes a job/education, a home, and meaningful personal relationships with friends and family. SAMHSA works to achieve this vision through an action-oriented, measurable mission of "Building Resilienceand Facilitating Recovery."

The Challenge

In 2005, over 22 million Americans, aged 12 or older, were classified with substance abuse or dependence; nearly 25 million adults, aged 18 or older, were living with a serious mental condition, according to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The economic costs of undiagnosed and untreated mental and substance use disorders are staggering.

The human costs -- measured in lost jobs, lost families and lost lives—are incalculable. Yet, mental and substance use disorders are treatable illnesses from which people can and do recover. The toll of substance abuse and mental illnesses can be dramatically reduced by prevention and early intervention with state-of-the-art, researchbased services and supports. SAMHSA is bringing this knowledge to communities across the Nation to ensure that people with or at risk for mental or substance use disorders have the opportunity for recovery and a fulfilling life in the community.


Through its three Centers and supporting Offices, SAMHSA engages in program activities to carry out its mission. With a fiscal year 2007 budget of nearly $3.3 billion, SAMHSA funds and administers a rich portfolio of grant programs and contracts that support state and community efforts to expand and enhance prevention and early intervention programs and to improve the quality, availability and range of substance abuse treatment, mental health and recovery support services—in local communities— where people can be served most effectively.

At the heart of SAMHSA’s funding programs is accountability. Today, SAMHSA’s formula and discretionary grant programs are focusing on performance measurement and management. SAMHSA is working with grantees to report performance-based outcomes. Driven by a strategy to improve accountability, capacity and effectiveness, SAMHSA ensures that its resources are being used effectively and efficiently and also that these resources are being invested in the best interest

SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services

CMHS provides national leadership to ensure the application of scientifically established findings and practice-based knowledge in the prevention and treatment of mental disorders; to improve access, reduce barriers, and promote high-quality effective programs and services for people with, or at risk for these disorders, as well as for their families and communities; and to promote an improved state of mental health within the Nation, as well as the rehabilitation of people with mental disorders.

SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention

The mission of CSAP is to build resiliency and facilitate recovery. CSAP provides national leadership in the development of policies, programs and services to prevent the onset of illegal drug, underage alcohol, and tobacco use. CSAP disseminates effective substance abuse prevention practices and builds the capacity of States, communities and other organizations to apply prevention knowledge effectively. An integrated systems approach is used to coordinate these activities and collaborate with other federal, State, public and private organizations.

SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment

The mission of CSAT is to bring effective alcohol and drug treatment to every community. CSAT provides national leadership to expand the availability of effective treatment and recovery services for alcohol and drug problems; to improve access, reduce barriers and promote high-quality effective treatment and recovery services for people with alcohol and drug problems, abuse, or addiction as well as for their families and communities.

Office of Applied Studies

OAS collects, analyzes, and disseminates national data on behavioral health practices and issues. OAS is responsible for the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Drug Abuse Warning Network and the Drug and Alcohol Services Information System, among other studies.


SAMHSA’s matrix of program priorities and cross-cutting principles outlines and guides its activities in pursuit of its vision and mission. The matrix includes 12 program priority areas. They are co-occurring disorders, substance abuse treatment capacity, seclusion and restraint, strategic prevention framework, children and families, mental health system transformation, suicide prevention, homelessness, older adults, HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis, criminal and juvenile justice, and workforce development. A two-year action plan for each priority area is published on SAMHSA’s Web site,

By focusing on these priority areas, SAMHSA is supporting state and community efforts to provide people with the services they need to live, work, learn and participate fully in their communities. With the continued support of its many partners, SAMHSA will continue to bring the message of hope, courage and recovery and the promise of a life in the community to every individual it touches through its work.


Transforming the Nation's mental health system Unprecedented collaboration of nine Federal Cabinet-level Departments and two additional agencies is leading to transformation of mental health care in America by implementing the 70 steps outlined in the Federal Mental Health Action Agenda. This collaboration lead by SAMHSA through the Federal Executive Steering Committee on Mental Health is focusing on priority issues, including suicide prevention, primary care/mental health integration, financing, employment, disaster and emergency response, chronic homelessness and services for older adults..

Expanding treatmentcapacity, promoting consumer choice In support of President Bush’s Access to Recovery initiative -- a voucher program designed to empower individuals seeking community-based drug and alcohol treatment to choose the providers that best meet their needs -- SAMHSA oversees a $98 million discretionary grant program to move the President’s vision forward. As of December 31, 2006, the ATR program had served 137,579 clients exceeding the 125,000 clients expected to be served over the three-year program. After receiving services through ATR, 81 percent of clients are abstinent from substances and 51 percent are in stable housing.

Screening adds prevention and treatment The Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral, and Treatment (SBIRT) program is expanding the continuum of care to include these activities in general medical and other community settings (e.g., community health centers, schoolbased health clinics and student assistance programs, occupational health clinics, hospitals, emergency departments). Preliminary 2006 SBIRT data show a total of 74 percent of high-risk individuals reported lowering their drug or alcohol consumption after one or more brief treatment sessions, and 48 percent reported stopping use.

Improving outcomes for people with co-occurring disorders Since SAMHSA submitted its landmark Report to Congress on co-occurring mental and substance use disorders, SAMHSA has made great strides in achieving the action steps outlined in the Report, including funding State Incentive Grants for Co-Occurring Disorders, establishing a technical assistance and cross-training center, creating an evidence-based practices toolkit, expanding SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices to include effective treatments for co-occurring disorders and releasing an updated Treatment Improvement Protocol on co-occurring disorders.

Strategic Prevention Framework Reversing a resurgence of teen drug use during the 1990s, drug use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders has declined by 23 percent since 2001. SAMHSA continues to work to push rates even lower through 42 strategic prevention framework grants to States and Territories and support of almost 800 communities through the drug free communities program. The framework is built on science-based theory, evidence-based practices, and the knowledge that effective prevention programs must engage individuals, families and entire communities. It sets into place a process that empowers communities to identify and implement the most effective strategies to achieve community-level change.

Reducing teen drug use and sales of tobacco to children Reversing a resurgence of teen drug use during the 1990s, drug use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders has declined by 17 percent in the past 3 years--exceeding the President's goal of reducing teen drug use by 10 percent. SAMHSA has contributed to this reduction by providing funding to States, local governments and communitybased organizations to implement sciencebased prevention programs. Likewise, through SAMHSA's block grant funding and efforts to help States reduce sales of tobacco to children under age 18, the national retailer violation rate dropped to 12.8 percent in 2004, down from 14.1 percent in 2003 and 40.1 percent in 1996.

Addressing the Nation's disaster mental health and substance abuse needs SAMHSA has a long history in responding to disaster-related mental health and substance abuse issues as well as in providing assistance at the community level in the wake of emergencies. Just weeks after the terrorist events of September 11 -- SAMHSA convened a national summit in New York City to examine the needs of communities, and to ensure readiness for the ongoing war on terrorism. SAMHSA also responded quickly to the need for information and resources for deployed personnel and victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. SAMHSA continues to support these emergency planning efforts with grants, training, and technical assistance.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), focuses attention, programs and funding on promoting a life in the community with jobs, homes and meaningful relationships with family and friends for people with or at risk for mental or substance use disorders. The Agency is achieving that vision through an action-oriented, measurable mission of building resilience and facilitating recovery.

Last Update: 9/24/2008