SAMHSA's New "Recovery Support" Strategic Initiative & Consumer/Survivor Advocacy


Washington, DC -- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration/DHHS recently restructured their strategic initiatives, including
a new focus area called "recovery support." This change comes after intense
advocacy in the fall of 2010, highlighting how none of the initiatives included
survivor/consumer voice and leadership, where it seems the Agency has now
responded to thousands of constituents and the U.S. Congress. The new initiative
appeared recently on the SAMHSA Website and will "partner with people in
recovery from mental and substance use disorders" to "promote individual-,
program-, and system-level approaches that foster health and resilience;
increase permanent housing, employment, education, and other necessary supports;
and reduce barriers to social inclusion."

The inclusion of recovery support comes after SAMHSA opened the strategic
initiatives for public comment and thousands of survivors, consumers, advocates,
and others chimed in to ensure that this important voice and perspective was
maintained at all levels of the Agency. Facilitated by U.S. Congressman Ted Poe
(R-TX), the Victim Rights and Mental Health Caucus co-chairs issued a letter to
Secretary Sebelius expressing their concern. While the new strategic initiative
appears to address some of the concerns, the authors of that letter have yet to
receive an official response.
"The addition of "recovery support" to SAMHSA's strategic initiative is a step
in the right direction, but we can not lose sight of the fact that survivors and
consumers must be involved in order for the programs to be effective," commented
Representative Poe.
Dan Fisher, consumer advocate and Executive Director of the National Empowerment
Center stated "The consumer/survivor community greatly appreciates SAMHSA's
response to our request for supporting our genuine participation in continuing
to move to a recovery and wellness-based system."
Witness Justice President & CEO Helga Luest, who led the national advocacy
effort, shares feelings of appreciation for the shift at SAMHSA. "This is a very
big step forward in maintaining the voice and perspective that we know has a
positive impact on program efficacy," commented Luest. "With the state of our
economy and national budget, unless something is a stated priority, it risks
being cut - and that risk wasn't something the survivor/consumer movement was
willing to accept. The collective action of so many constituent groups clearly
made a difference, and all those that participated share this accomplishment."
Luest reported that members of the Mental Health Liaison Group, where she
participates as an advocate, are generally pleased to see SAMHSA add "recovery
support" to their strategic initiatives where mental health and trauma survivors
have voice and leadership in behavioral health services.
"Real consumer centered care is a key component in the U.S. healthcare reform
efforts," remarked David Shern, PhD, President & CEO of Mental Health America.
"This is perhaps nowhere more important than in mental health and addictions
where consumers' voice and perspectives are often absent. Empowering full
participation in meaningful recovery plans is essential if the system is to
become truly consumer centric and the effectiveness of care enhanced."
The details of how the new "recovery support" initiative will engage effective
partnership and collaboration with the consumer and survivor communities have
not yet been shared.  Survivors/consumers, advocates, organization, and
policymakers await action from SAMHSA that brings survivors/consumers back to
the table and in real leadership positions.  
Witness Justice is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide
support and advocacy for survivors of violence and trauma. More than half of the
Witness Justice Board of Directors are survivors/consumers. For more
information, please visit