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SAMHSA departure raises speculation

July 24, 2008
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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As addiction field leaders learned this week that Terry Cline, PhD, will leave as administrator of theSubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) next month, some wondered whether the agency will be positioned to help the field realize the promise of accessible treatment and recovery.

Both Cline and his predecessor at SAMHSA, Charles Curie, had formerly managed state agencies with responsibility for both mental health and addiction services. But some addiction field leaders maintain that addiction too often seems to get cast as secondary to mental illness in federal policy discussions.

“Can SAMHSA be the agency that can create a true private/public partnership and develop a delivery system that ensures that addiction treatment is available and delivered to everyone in need?” said Ronald J. Hunsicker, president and CEO of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP). He added, “What would SAMHSA look like if its administrator came out of the addiction treatment field?”

Cline, who served as SAMHSA administrator for less than two years, will become the next Health Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, effective Aug. 31. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt cited Cline’s experience as a caregiver and a builder of collaborative relationships in his announcement of the appointment.

During an address at last month’s State Associations of Addiction Services (SAAS) conference, Cline focused on SAMHSA’s ongoing efforts to streamline processes for grantees, while urging specialty treatment providers to link into efforts to screen more individuals for substance use problems in primary care settings.