Energy and Commerce Committee Meeting on Delivering Services to the Mentally Ill


I just watched the SAMHSA’s Role in Delivering Services to the Severely Mentally Ill. (May 22, 2013)

Several representatives from the Energy and Commerce Committee asked some really  good questions for Pamela Hyde, the Administrator of SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) to answer.


Does SAMHSA provide services that encourage severely mentally ill to go off their medications?

  • SAMHSA does not fund advocacy group that encourage patients go off their meds.
  • Representatives stated they knew that there were some groups that did.
  • One conference SAMSHA has had encourage those who use alternative therapies like meditation and yoga

Can you cite the credibility of those involved in SAMHSA?

  • There is one currently and one will be added in June
  • Several representatives expressed concerns with this
  • Nobody on staff has extensive experience with mentally ill because we are not focusing on treatment and don’t need people with certain credentials
  • Out of 600 people who work at SAMSHA, there are currently only one M.D.
  • We are unable to afford to pay MD’s, but do use interns

How will sequestration affect SAMSHA?

  • 168 million dollars out of the budget of 3.4 billion will be cut
  • Public Awareness efforts will be cut
  • In 2014, it is proposed that 5,000 more professionals will be added, but will not be directed towards clinical experts. (was also mentioned that Obama is not an expert in this field)
  • There will be an 18% cut
  • The cut will have a profound impact on SAMSHA and all other agencies dealing with the mentally ill
  • 62 million people will have coverage who don’t have it now
  • More access to insurance and the parity law will help those with pre-existing conditions

How does SAMSAH plan to change the way they will spend $ due to recent budget cuts/Budget Concerns & How money is being Wasted

  • 330,000 less people getting less benefits
  • Way too much money on conferences and workshops is being spent
  • Specific conference entitled “Unleash the Beast”  that compared animals to the mentally ill
  • The money being spent is not being used to help those with severe mental illnesses
  • Not a lot of educational programs are funded by SAMSHA
  • One representative stated that the first thing to do with any business would be to take care of the clients first “#1 mission needs to come first”
  • 130 million dollars are being spent in 2014, but no funding plans have been made yet
  • Do we just want to send out money without knowing who states will be using it?
  • There needs to be a serious look at the way money is spent on conferences. It is estimated that a conference that is happening in the near future will cost tax payers $5,000
  • SAMSAH often pays air fare and a fee to speakers
  • It was noted that 2, 500 was spent on art work.

Why are the names of certain terms like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia not included in may of the documents?

  • Honorable Hyde kept saying that the form they were talking about was not clinical

How will the Affordable Care Act change how the mentally ill are serviced?

  • 62 million people will have coverage who don’t have it now
  • Access to insurance will improve because the parity act will be in effect

How are  block grants handled?

  • States decide how the block grants are spent
  • SAMSAH has little impact on how they spend this money

How is help being given to our veterans?

  • Crucial help will be given to our veterans
  • Steps are being taken to prevent suicide of our veterans
  • These can still be in affect even after the sequestration

How are the victims of tragic events and disasters being helped by SAMSHA?

  • They work with FEMA and the Red Cross
  • There is a distress agent that helps

How is SAMSHA helping the criminal justice system and the jails?

  • Dollars appropriated for this is less than other programs

Is SAMSHA helping those with mental illnesses recover?

  • Recovery is important. We should want people to recover. However, they need to get treatment. This involves housing, social networks, jobs/education. These are parts of recovery
  • It was stated that patients afflicted with schizophrenia can get to a point where they can live without the symptoms

How is the social media sites helping those who are suicidal?

  • If someone were to google suicide or terms related to it, the first thing that will come up is the National Suicide Hotline will come up first
  • Facebook monitors certain language and help to intervene and reach out. They have been working with the National Surgeon General
  • A lot of this stemmed from the the Garret Lee Smith Memorial Act

How is outpatient services working in our country?

  • A New York hospital had great results after a study was done. However, a lot of money was spent on the whole program
  • An example was given about a person who was court ordered to go to outpatient psychiatric facility and it was not followed up and ended badly
  • Outpatient services are being cut in many states

How should the  mentally ill and gun control being handled?

  • She personally has no objection to gun control.
  • she does have a problem with some of the terms like “mental defective”.
  • SAMSHA is working with police officers and judges so the policies can help those with mental illnesses

What is being done to help our youth?

  • School is a great place for students to be identified as having mental health issues.
  • Because teachers are on the front line they are  trained to look for signs
  • Insurance is often a problem when parents try to get their children help
  • Funds to help our children are just a “drop in the bucket”
  • Department of education provides in school health clinics, assistance referrals, materials that are  evidence based training of teachers


  • DSM-5 is throwing medications at the millions of being affected by bipolar disorder and shizophrenia
  • There is so much funding being spent on getting teens not to smoke, but there seems to be not enough is being done to help those with other addiction issues or mental illnesses
  • Honorable Hyde insisted that no lobbying is being done with their issues using tax payers’ dollars.  If they know of any, she wants to be made aware of it
  • It was stated at the end that this issue does not get as much attention as other issues facing our country right now, but needs to be handled
  • The mentally ill need to manage their problems just like someone with a health concern
  • How do they deliver what they and the National Institute of Health are supposed to do? question not really answered
  • Block grants help those in rural areas and the poor population
  • There is a problem that we have a lack of psychiatric beds, but we are helping to fund them in other countries
  • Currently, there are 400,000 prisoners needing psychiatric care and are given books.
  • Some representatives talked about personal things that they have witnessed or how they have been impacted by mental illness
  • The mentally ill not only lose control in Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech, Newtown, etc.  We need to have a national dialogue! There does not seem to be much funding for working with police to handle and prevent tragic events and many police departments have no crisis prevention


Honorable Hyde agreed to provide specific details of how money was spent on certain things the representatives asked for. In addition, she has said that she will provide notes of her keynote speeches.

A program that Obama is working on called Project Aware will help communities with mental health first aid, and educate first responders

Disclaimer: I took notes as I was listening and have written this with the full intent to inform others on what they talked about today. If anyone who watched or attended this hearing disagrees with anything I have said, they are welcome to email me at

Some of the Representatives who asked questions:

Mr Burgess, TX

Mr Butterfield, NC

Ms Castor, Florida

Mr. Olson, TX

Mr. Green, TX

Mr. Long Missouri

Mr. Gingry, Georgia

Mr. Blackburn, TN

THOSE IN ATTENDANCE (Witness Testimonies): Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.

  • Administrator of

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, E. Fuller Torrey, M.D.

  • Founder of

Treatment Advocacy Center: Sally Satel, M.D.

  • Resident Scholar for

American Enterprise Institute: Joe Bruce

  • Father of a son with severe mental illness

Joseph Parks III, M.D.

  • Chief Clinical Officer

Missouri Department of Mental Health

About Michelle Clark Bipolar Bandit

I am a strong advocate for the mentally ill and have been since I was first approached by a lawyer in a psychiatric facility as a teenager. He wanted me to help him fight how the mentally ill are mistreated. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 17 after a full blown manic episode. Before that, I suffered from debilitating depression for 4 years. My goals are to help others by sharing my story and providing tips to deal with mania and depression. I often write blogs related to advocating for people like myself. I want to encourage, inspire, and educate those with #bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses and also include inspirational #quotes. I founded the group Advocates for People with Mental Illnesses and the page Mental Health Advocates United and have several social media sites that are related to bipolar disorder and/or advocacy. If you are an advocate or would like to be, I hope you join our FB group: Advocates for People with Mental Illnesses
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