Research psychiatrist and Treatment Advocacy Center founder E. Fuller Torrey has called for federal budget cutters to abolish the agency that supposedly sees that mental health and addiction services are delivered to those who need them the most. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Dr. Torrey writes in the June 20 issue of National Review, “is a federal health agency distinguished by the fact that the health of its clients would improve if it went out of business.”
What "one might think ... " or "you might expect ... " emanates from an agency that claims its mission is reducing the impact of mental illness and addiction on America's communities is not what is happening, Dr. Torrey says. "One might think," for example, that SAMHSA would have a major interest in the two most serious mental illnesses - schizophrenia and bipolar disorder - that together affect 7.7 million Americans. Instead, he writes, neither disease is mentioned even once in the 41,804-word text of SAMSHA's just-released long-range action plan or is the subject of any of the agency's hundreds of publications.
"One might also expect" SAMHSA to "exhibit concern about the fact that 3.5 million out of the 7.7 million most severely mentally ill individuals in the US are not being treated," including a small number like Jared Lee Loughner who become dangerous without treatment. Yet SAMHSA funds organizations in several states – including Maine, Vermont, Pennsylvania and California – that have actively opposed proposed changes in state laws designed to make treatment more available for the most seriously mentally ill individuals.
Given SAMHSA’s failure to focus its resources on individuals with serious mental illnesses, Dr. Torrey recommends that the agency be abolished. He suggests that its "few valuable functions," such as data collection, would be transferred to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
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