The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is charged with improving the quality and availability of treatment and rehabilitative services in order to reduce illness, death, disability, and the cost to society resulting from substance abuse and mental illnesses. The Administrator of SAMHSA reports directly to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SAMHSA's headquarters building is located in Rockville, Maryland.


The front of the SAMHSA building in Rockville, MD

SAMHSA was established in 1992 by Congress as part of a reorganization of the Federal administration of mental health services; the new law renamed the former Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA). ADAMHA had passed through a series of name changes and organizational arrangements throughout its history:[1]

  • Narcotics Division (1929–30)
  • Division of Mental Hygiene (1930–43)
  • Mental Hygiene Division, Bureau of Medical Services (1943–49)
  • NIMH, National Institutes of Health (NIH, 1949–67)
  • NIMH (1967–68)
  • NIMH, Health Services and Mental Health Administration (1968–73)
  • NIMH, NIH (1973)
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, NIMH (1970–73)
  • ADAMHA, established 1973.

Congress directed SAMHSA to target effectively substance abuse and mental health services to the people most in need and to translate research in these areas more effectively and rapidly into the general health care system.[2]

Charles Curie was SAMHSA's Director until his resignation in May 2006. In December 2006 Terry Cline was appointed as SAMHSA's Director. Dr. Cline served through August 2008. Rear Admiral Eric Broderick served as the Acting Director upon Dr. Cline's departure,[3] until the arrival of the succeeding Administrator, Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. in November 2009.[4]


SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on American's communities.

Four SAMHSA offices, called Centers, administer competitive, formula, and block grant programs and data collection activities:[5]

The Centers give grant and contracts to U.S. states, territories, tribes, communities, and local organizations.[5] They support the provision of quality behavioral-health services such as addiction-prevention, treatment, and recovery-support services through competitive Programs of Regional and National Significance grants. Several staff offices support the Centers:[6]

  • Office of the Administrator
  • Office of Policy, Planning, and Innovation
    • Office of Behavioral Health Equity
  • Office of Financial Resources
  • Office of Management, Technology, and Operations
  • Office of Communications
  • Office of Tribal Affairs and Policy[5]

Center for Mental Health Services

The Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) is a unit of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This U.S. government agency describes its role as:

The Center for Mental Health Services leads federal efforts to promote the prevention and treatment of mental disorders. Congress created CMHS to bring new hope to adults who have serious mental illness and children with emotional disorders.[7]

As of March 2016, the director of CMHS is Paolo del Vecchio.[7]

CMHS is the driving force behind the largest US children's mental health initiative to date, which is focused on creating and sustaining systems of care. This initiative provides grants (now cooperative agreements) to States, political subdivisions of States, territories, Indian Tribes and tribal organizations to improve and expand their Systems Of Care to meet the needs of the focus population—children and adolescents with serious emotional, behavioral, or mental disorders. The Children's Mental Health Initiative is the largest Federal commitment to children’s mental health to date, and through FY 2006, it has provided over $950 million to support SOC development in 126 communities.[citation needed]

Regional offices

CMS has its headquarters in Rockville, Maryland[8] with 10 regional offices located throughout the United States:[9]

SAMHSA's Strategic Direction

In 2010, SAMHSA identified 8 Strategic Initiatives to focus the Agency's work. Below are the 8 areas and goals associated with each category:[10]

  • Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness - Create prevention-prepared communities in which individuals, families, schools, workplaces, and communities take action to promote emotional health; and, to prevent and reduce mental illness, substance (including tobacco) abuse, and, suicide, across the lifespan
  • Trauma and Justice - Reduce the pervasive, harmful, and costly public-health impacts of violence and trauma by integrating trauma-informed approaches throughout health and behavioral healthcare systems; also, to divert people with substance-abuse and mental disorders away from criminal-/juvenile-justice systems, and into trauma-informed treatment and recovery.
  • Military Families – Active, Guard, Reserve, and Veteran - Support of our service men & women, and their families and communities, by leading efforts to ensure needed behavioral health services are accessible to them, and successful outcomes.
  • Health Reform - Broaden health coverage and the use of evidence-based practices to increase access to appropriate and high quality care; also, to reduce existing disparities between: the availability of substance abuse and mental disorders; and, those for other medical conditions.
  • Housing and Homelessness - To provide housing for, and to reduce the barriers to accessing recovery-sustaining programs for, homeless persons with mental and substance abuse disorders (and their families)
  • Health Information Technology for Behavioral Health Providers - To ensure that the behavioral-health provider network—including prevention specialists and consumer providers—fully participate with the general healthcare delivery system, in the adoption of health information technology.
  • Data, Outcomes, and Quality – Demonstrating Results - Realize an integrated data strategy that informs policy, measures program impact, and results in improved quality of services and outcomes for individuals, families, and communities.
  • Public Awareness and Support - Increase understanding of mental and substance abuse prevention & treatment services, to achieve the full potential of prevention, and, to help people recognize and seek assistance for these health conditions with the same urgency as any other health condition.

Their budget for the Fiscal Year 2010 was about $3.6 billion. It was re-authorized for FY2011. Most recently, the FY 2016 Budget requests $3.7 billion for SAMHSA, an increase of $45 million above FY 2015.[citation needed]


In February 2004, the administration was accused of requiring the name change of an Oregon mental health conference from "Suicide Prevention Among Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Individuals" to "Suicide Prevention in Vulnerable Populations."[11][12]

In 2002, then-President George W. Bush established the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. The resulting report was intended to provide the foundation for the federal government's Mental Health Services programs. However, many experts and advocates were highly critical of its report, Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America.

See also



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