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SAMHSA Proposes Big Changes to Substance Abuse Block Grant Program for Next Year

March 21, 2011
by Chris Campbell
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The President’s 2012 budget (released on February 14th) includes a number of proposals to significantly restructure certain programs within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

SAMHSA proposes to create a new discretionary Substance Abuse State Prevention Grant Program (SA-SPG) that would go to states based on a formula. The program would be funded by reallocating and partially reducing the two largest sources of funds in SAMHSA that currently exist for substance abuse prevention. The new program would be funded from a combination of separating the statutorily required 20 percent prevention set aside in the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SAPTBG), and moving it, along with $51 million from the current SPF SIG program (and eliminating the remainder of the SPF SIG program funding), to the newly proposed SA-SPG. To be able to go into effect the new SA-SPG program requires a congressional waiver from the current statutory requirement that 20 percent of the money appropriated in the SAPTBG be used for substance abuse prevention. The SAMHSA budget requests that the appropriators grant this one-year waiver. In these turbulent budget times, this proposal, for a one-year waiver through the appropriations process would not establish a stable foundation for a long term SA-SPG program, which is proposed to replace the bulk of SAMHSA’s presently funded substance abuse prevention portfolio.

As Congress proposes extremely severe funding cuts to existing programming, the FY 2012 budget proposal to create a new substance use prevention grant program by breaking apart the SAPT Block Grant puts funding for the foundation of our system at risk. Creating another Block Grant structure outside of the current statutorily-required Block Grant program represents an unnecessary and burdensome approach-- Substance abuse stakeholders welcome a dialogue to improve and expand substance abuse prevention services using the streamlined and coordinated approach of the current SAPT Block format.

The SAPT Block Grant already provides all States with consistent and reliable formula-based funding for substance abuse prevention services through its statutorily required 20 percent prevention set-aside. State substance abuse agencies have worked for a number of years to ensure that services funded by prevention set-aside dollars are effectively and efficiently managed. Specifically, State agencies, under the current SAPT Block Grant structure, engage in community assessment and planning, performance contracting and data management and reporting; contract monitoring; corrective action planning; on-site reviews; technical assistance and more.

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Chris Campbell

Christopher Campbell is the Director of Government Relations for NAADAC, The Association for...