Tuesday, March 6, 2012

SAMHSA vote: Assisted Outpatient Treatment one of Most Important Advances

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) periodically conducts an unscientific online poll of it’s constituency. The most recent poll was to define the most important behavioral health milestones over the past twenty years. The way the poll works is that individuals can enter ideas online and then the SAMHSA constituency votes. The slight issue with this is that if two people enter the same idea, the vote can get split.

The number one and two vote-getter was peer support and consumer driven care. Several people entered it using various wording and individually or collectively it was the clear winner.  This is not surprising. SAMHSA funds peer services. The organizations that receive the funding make sure their members vote to preserve their funding. And because these organizations have SAMHSA-funded staffs they are very effective. But if you combine number one and number two (both peer support) you find the next highest vote getter was a surprise: Assisted Outpatient Treatment

SAMHSA does not usually focus on efforts to help people with the most serious mental illnesses, so seeing AOT come in as the second most important advance was a surprise. 964 individuals voted for “Implementation of AOT” (which Mental Illness Policy Org proposed) and another 181 voted for “Court Ordered Outpatient Treatment” which was proposed by someone else. These are the same, making for a total of 1145 votes which made Asssisted Outpatient Treatment the clear second place winner.  This in spite of the fact that the SAMHSA-funded consumertocracy organized a vote against AOT. (This is kind of like having an election and allowing people to vote for one candidate and also cast a vote against another. It is only the first vote that counts.)

 SAMHSA has previously asked the public to weigh in on issues. Last year they asked what strategic initiatives they should promote and in that poll Increase use of Assisted Outpatient Treatment came in third.  Unfortunately, SAMHSA ignored that poll, and will most likely ignore this most recent one.

SAMHSA has been widely and recently criticized for their failure to focus on serious mental illness and wasting money by Mental Illness Policy Org, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, the Treatment Advocacy Center and others. Many believe SAMHSA does more harm than good and should be eliminated. If SAMHSA ignores the most recent poll, they will prove their critics right.

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