SAMHSA’s Regional Administrators: SAMHSA’s Presence in the Community

SAMHSA’s Regional Administrators: SAMHSA’s Presence in the Community


Prevention works. That prevention works
That treatment is effective. Treatment is effective.
People do recover. People really do recover. SAMHSA is a part of the larger Department
of Health and Human Services. And SAMHSA stands for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration. SAMHSA is the leader in talking about recovery.
SAMHSA is the lead federal agency for behavioral health. We are the lead voice that provides
direction and utilizes a public health approach toward advancing our mission of reducing the
impact of substance abuse. A large focus of my work, both at the state
level and now at the federal level, has been on promoting practices and policies that are
directed towards addressing the whole person, not doing mental health services that treat
people from the head up and, and primary care services that treat people from the neck down. We are the visible, vocal agency that speaks
to recovery, that champions recovery, that advocates for recovery. The wholistic process of recovery that really
addresses the physical, the mental, the emotional, or psychological and spiritual states of being. And, as you can see from where we’re standing
right now, you know, this is a really rural region of the nation. Within this region,
there’s really some leading edge work being done in terms of telemedicine and other kinds
of alternative ways to deliver mental health and substance abuse services. Region 9 encompasses eight time zones and
approximately 8,000 miles, from the Stone Islands of Palau to the Grand Canyon. And
it is, without question, the most widely diverse region within the United States and within
health and human services. You know, I really like to compare the work
of the SAMHSA regional administrator here in Dallas in Region 6, to the same kind of
pioneering spirit that many of the men that drove cattle across the States in Region 6
had. And what I mean by that is, there’s a tremendous challenge as a SAMHSA regional
administrator, to forge those partnerships. The opportunity to engage and realize how
I can help facilitate the right meetings, the right conversations, get the right people
together. SAMHSA and HRSA have this very unique relationship
now in terms of our partnership. And its been so wonderful not only to absorb the work of
SAMHSA into the regional portfolio that HHS offers, but also to have you personally join
our staff here in Boston. You know, one of the big things that we do
as SAMHSA regional administrators is to connect people in lots of different ways. One of those
is to connect people out here across the nation with some of the many resources and the talent
that SAMHSA has as an entire organization. I am able to blaze trail here. I am able to
go places that we haven’t been before, and start to create some of that for others. That,
to me, is extraordinary. The regional administrator is prime because
they have the rhythm, the pulse and the heartbeat of their region and may have to respond in
a way that is very close to home. Where individuals cannot access behavioral
health, it is important that we work with the community here at SAMHSA to make sure
that those individuals are being treated for mental health issues and substance abuse disorders.
Behavioral health is essential to health. Prevention works. Treatment is effective.
And people do recover. When conversations about health occur anywhere
in my region, we ensure that behavioral health is a part of that conversation. You know what happened prior to us is that
you had SAMHSA, which had all of its expertise in a building. And they would go out. But
they always went back. I’m not leaving. I work right down the road. Or I’m in the region.
I’m not going anywhere. I belong here. I am here. And to see the shifts and the shifts
in relationships because we are here, and that we are connected, and that is our job,
has been very interesting, particularly at the state level. Now we talk to each other
and we work together. And we bring that to the table as a team. And that they know me
as John. When I describe what I do, I usually use the
term that I am a public servant. Growing up as a military kid, that really got embedded
in my thinking, that you always give back something to your country. Being a public servant means being a part
of the community and really seeing my contributions and my expertise in the area of mental health
and addictions being able to help move and change a community and the public in a direction
that’s much more healthy. A lot of times folks ask, “Why do you do
this work? What is the importance of being a SAMHSA regional administrator?” Well for
me, personally, it goes all the way back to the death of my father. At the age of 56,
my father died of alcoholism. And you know, years later, I got in the program of recovery.
And so today, I’m a person in long-term recovery. You know, my passion around mental health
and substance abuse has been forged from years ago. I am from a family that has struggled
with addiction, has struggled with mental health issues. SAMHSA’s messaging around
our commitment to reducing the impact of mental health and substance abuse has been my passion. So the opportunity as a SAMHSA regional administrator,
to be a part of a larger network of people at the federal level, who are trying to impact
the lives of others, is for me, a very rewarding experience. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade
anything in the world for it. You know, they pay me for this. Don’t tell
them I would do it for free. That’s the joy. That’s the challenge that I bring to
the position. The freedom to prosper in life coincides with
SAMHSA’s mantra that behavioral health is essential to health, prevention works, treatment
is effective, and people recover. We get to be on top of such significant change
in the history of healthcare at this particular time. It’s meaningful work. One of the big priorities in the region has
been getting out and speaking to people about prevention, particularly related to the Affordable
Care Act and the screenings that will occur through that program. The Affordable Care Act really opens doors
and creates new opportunities for accessibility, for mental health and substance abuse services. For the first time in history, mental health
and substance abuse disorders and addictions are considered one of the 10 essential services
that the healthcare providers need to provide. We’re seeing behavioral health become part
of the standard primary healthcare delivery system. When we think about the whole person, we’re
thinking about someone’s– the connection of their head, their body, as well as who
they are within their community, and who they are as a person. We need to look at people holistically, we
need not only look at the lack of illness, we need to look at wellness. We could save money and lives if we would
just invest in mental illness and addictions as true health care issues. The way we’re addressing mental illness
and substance abuse is really based on what science tells us about what works, what effective
interventions are, what effective treatments are. And really using those evidence-based
practices as we address those issues within our communities and our families. You know, one of the ways SAMHSA affects change
is by helping provide our states, tribes, territories and local government not only
the resources they need, but also the technical assistance and the tools, so that they are
able to advance the particular behavioral health in their community. So its a tremendous historic opportunity for
us to do our part on the behavioral health side to carry that message to our advocacy
groups, to our provider networks, to our prevention coalitions, homeless coalitions, to help people
understand that with this Affordable Care Act, they can now have coverage to address
mental health and substance abuse issues. And because of the our large expanse and the
great spans of distance between communities and individuals, often times there are unique
coalitions of networks of youth, of older adults, of adults that are truly committed
to issues of suicide and underage drinking and have formed coalitions that work across
a number of different communities along with state agencies and their federal partnerships. You know, we have 600 and some staff in our
DC office. They are experts in lots of different things and its really good to make those connections
when communities are trying to solve an issue or work on a problem, and to connect those
folks to those experts to bring those resources out to these regions. And Regional Administrators are very much
interested in serving as an information source and a problem solver. Our health reform team at SAMHSA has put together
a toolkit of resources to help providers, help consumers, help people who work with
the homeless. What I’m typing in right now is store.SAMHSA.gov.
We’ve also got webinars. We’ve got recorded video and audio. SAMHSA’s ability to use technology, and
to reach audiences where they are at, is critically important. In Region 7 we participated in a webcast a
few weeks ago that my colleague Jeff Cody in Region 5 had orchestrated. Through the use of web conferences and other
technology, SAMHSA is able to promote the message of behavioral health to audiences
it may have not previously reached. In that webcast, you know, we had sites that
were on three of the tribal nations in our region. As the Regional Administrator, I have found
opportunities where we could collaborate with those on the health side of the house in the
Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico for that matter where behavioral health did not have
a pervious presence. And there is going to be a day when we don’t
say health and behavioral health. But, when we say health, everybody knows that means
behavioral health. And I think SAMHSA is poised right now in that position to help lead that
particular effort. We will have a continuing role, again with
our partners, and within the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as our
state and local partners, in promoting that, in facilitating that, in helping make sure
that people in our community are, all across the northwest, and all of our communities,
are fully aware of the range of options that they have. You know, people talk a lot about what it
means to have wholistic care. But we’ve really had wholistic care for clients, where it is
a one-stop-shop, because we have our pharmacy, and we have the clinic. And we’re able to
do work with clients that we wouldn’t be able to do if we didn’t have the clinic
here. Being able to really see, like I can really get something done with this client,
or we can really make change and help them get to their treatment goal. In the position that I’m in, you know, I look
at what NAVOS is doing and our other grantees. And it’s just, you know, it’s so impressive,
and it’s so inspiring. It’s even bigger than health home. It’s like a health community
or health neighborhood. So, as you can see, this is our main lobby.
For the most part, every Latin American flag is represented. So, if you come in here, and
you’re from Nicaragua, say, “Oh wow. There’s my flag. I feel right at home.” This has
been one of our most popular programs, is our play therapy program. Here is where we
see the children, from age three to six or seven, with trauma issues. That’s wonderful, because SAMHSA is very
much– that’s one of our strategic initiatives is trauma informed care. Most of our adults have never seen a doctor.
So we started identifying issues where there was diabetes, hypotension, high blood-pressure.
We said if we have these problems then we need to make sure we help them take car of
it. Then we opened up to HIV testing that we also do in house. If prescription medications were disposed
of properly, it would not only decrease emergency room incidents of people using medications
for something they shouldn’t, it also would improve the water supply. I mean our officers are emptying this box
just about every other– like three or four times a week, almost every other day they’re
emptying this box. So it really is worthwhile. So I hear in your voices and see in your faces
that you really understand and believe the value of having this here. Well good luck,
chief. I’m sure you’ll be the one. Thank you. I hope so. Thank you so much for your time. We really
appreciate it. Really prompted by our SAMHSA funded program
that noticed that we don’t have as many male clients. But having your role, it was
as simple as saying, “Dennis lets talk about men of color. I think we need to do something
and here’s what I’m seeing.” As a provider, I think we all knew about and
saw the value of integrated care. So to see this stuff for me it’s incredibly gratifying I’m Linda Abington. Nice meeting you. Hi Linda, its a pleasure. I’m Jeff Cody, the
SAMHSA regional administrator. Thank you. Welcome. We’re so happy for you
to be able to come. By coming here, I had a support. I go to City
College and taking some placement tests. And I’m actually going to pursue a nursing career.
I think that program has given me self confidence. Clients feel welcomed when they come in. And,
as a matter of fact, we have people just come in who graduated years ago, and they come
back. Because, once you’re a part of our family, you’re always a part of our family. I mean the energy in these places, I mean
you can’t– you can’t mask it. It’s authentic, it’s genuine, it’s infectious. So I’m Sharon Levy. And I’m the director of
the adolescent substance abuse program here at Children’s Hospital. I think there was
a big struggle to find treatment for a teen. I’m sure. We’re one of the few programs that will
see an 11 year old. So we wanted to make sure that there are spots for those kids. It’s, I think, hugely important that Children’s
Hospital, as a leader, needs to be out in front saying integration of this kind of care
is hugely essential for children and for their families. We have 18 exam rooms and we have an onsite
pharmacy, and the eye clinic is here as well. And this is really an example of the ideallic
one stop shopping and in the sense of being a part of the community and the community
embraces the clinic and people can come here for they type of care that they need when
they need it. When we first became an anonymous testing
site in 1986 for HIV, we really developed a wholistic care model, which was really geared
at taking care of the whole person. If you are going to be out in the community doing
testing and education prevention, you have to be able to prepare people for a possible
positive diagnosis. You are going to need to be able to take their behavior health needs,
substance abuse needs, general medicine needs, their dental care, and really take care of
the whole person. That sounds very much like the type of integrated
care that people talk about today that you The Waipahu Aloha Clubhouse is a program for
people with mental health issues. And its really a place for a person who just came
out of the hospital or has a mental illness and needs some place to recover. So we have
a place where members can learn how to prep the food, cook it, make meals. Its amazing
to see members grow and eventually say “I want to get a job” APAA is for persons affected by addiction,
which is definitely me. Right now, I’m a door greeter, so I greet people when they come
in, and just a warm smile, a handshake “hi, how are you doing.” Just a smile sometimes
is all someone needs. We all, together, become a family. And becoming
a family, you know, we stay clean together. This is just– This is like home to me. I
can’t put into words the feeling I get from here. It’s amazing. So it keeps me coming back to work. All right. So it’s just a collection of letters from
parents and kids who just, you know, wanted to tell us how much better they are, and how
great they’re doing. And I keep a whole folder of them, and I go back to it. That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. Clean
and sober. It really does make a difference. END

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