McCance-Katz Revamps SAMHSA TA Model, Takes Program Evaluation Inside

NYAPRS Note: New HHS Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz issued the following blog last week announcing plans to refocus and expand SAMHSA funded technical assistance by giving more control over to local groups to identify their needs and the TA provider of their choice, rather than traditional reliance on identified contractors. At the same time, SAMHSA will continue to fund regional and national TA Centers.

Dr. McCance-Katz also announced that SAMHSA will be taking program evaluation inside the agency with a greater focus on collecting key outcomes measures to evaluate program success or areas of improvement.

Summary: more of a bottom up system for TA identification and provision and a results approach to evaluating the success or future of such programs.  

Dr. McCance-Katz will be our kick off keynoter at NYAPRS’ upcoming Annual Executive Seminar, to be held April 19-20 at the Albany Hilton. See more details at

March 20, 2018

SAMHSA Revamping TA-Contractors Model To Deliver More Support To American Communities

Every day, across our country, individuals are dying from mental and substance use disorders. I returned to SAMHSA to do everything I could to ensure that American families and communities do not continue to lose their loved ones to these preventable and treatable conditions. As the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, I take very seriously my responsibility to ensure that every dollar entrusted to SAMHSA by the American public is used in the most effective manner possible.

As a physician, I have seen firsthand the urgent need for funding and the programs that SAMHSA provides. I have treated many patients whose lives are dependent on the types of services SAMHSA funding generates. SAMHSA’s programs serve millions across the country, but there are millions more who still need these services. It is imperative that SAMHSA maximizes its dollars that go directly to serving Americans. I see it as my role to reform agency practices to serve communities more efficiently and to identify ways to fund even more services with current resources.

With this in mind, I have taken a close look at SAMHSA’s activities over the past six months. One of the major functions the agency serves is the provision of Technical Assistance (TA). I believe in the value of TA and feel strongly that one of SAMHSA’s roles is to provide this type of service; however, I do not believe the government or its contractors are best equipped to determine the needs of a grantee. I believe that grantees know their programs and their needs best. It is not the role of staff in Rockville, MD to determine what every community needs.

It is our job at SAMHSA to provide communities access to technical assistance and training that communities and community providers request. We will do this through the continuation of national and regional TA centers. But we will no longer continue a contractor-driven approach to grantee-specific TA. We will make use of local expertise and experience and will provide these services free of charge to the grantees and to the field at large. We also plan to provide additional dollars to grantees to help them to procure their own TA, should a specific tailored need arise.

I know how urgent the need for reform is, as a former SAMHSA grantee: I once was quite puzzled when a SAMHSA contractor put together a training for three days to provide TA for me – in an area for which I required no help.  This practice will not continue any longer.

SAMHSA’s role in evaluating its programs is no different. I see evaluation as a critical need for all SAMHSA programs. I am committed to ensuring that all SAMHSA programs are evaluated in a robust and high-quality manner; however, this does not necessitate spending millions of dollars to fund external contracts to do this. SAMHSA will be bringing much of its evaluation work in-house. Grantees will no longer be asked to collect reams of data that this government agency doesn’t even use. We will, instead, be collecting key outcome measures, which federal staff will utilize to analyze programs’ successes and areas for improvement.

Changing the way SAMHSA does business – to be less reliant on an antiquated system that has depended on external contractors – will enable the agency to realize millions of dollars in savings. These savings will be turned back to America’s communities through the funding of more grants to implement the much-needed programs and services for those living with mental and substance use disorders.

Individuals, families, communities, and the nation at large deserve better than what they have been getting. I intend to do all I can to ensure that as many individuals as possible gain access to the highest-quality, most evidence-based treatment available. In many cases, Americans’ lives are depending on it.