Article from SAMHSA News: Emergency Response: SAMHSA’s Regional Administrators

coping“In January 2012, the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) placed regional administrators (RAs) in each of the 10 Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) regional offices for the first time in its history. By spreading some of its staff across the country, SAMHSA helped to ensure that mental and substance use disorders are addressed in the regions along with all other health issues. The RAs provide information to communities; providers; state, territorial, and tribal representatives; and others in their regions. They facilitate SAMHSA’s collaboration with other HHS colleagues. They also help SAMHSA stay informed about behavioral health needs throughout the country.

“The RAs have been remarkably effective at making sure behavioral health has been at the table for discussion at the state level,” said Anne Herron, Director of the Division of Regional and National Policy Liaison at SAMHSA, who serves as the coordinator between the RAs and SAMHSA’s central office. “This wasn’t possible when everything was centralized in Rockville, MD.”

Two recent events—Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombings—show that the RA system is especially well-suited to responding to disasters and terrorism.

When Hurricane Sandy slammed into New Jersey last October, the damage was unprecedented. From ripped-up boardwalks on the Jersey shore to a flooded lower Manhattan, the impact would be felt for months to come. For SAMHSA’s Region II Administrator Dennis O. Romero, M.A., the disaster was a test of preparedness, communication, and effective response—in short, a test of SAMHSA’s regional administrator (RA) system itself.

While storms can be predicted hours or days before, what happened in Boston on April 15, 2013, came without warning. Two pressure cooker bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and the city instantly took on a stark atmosphere of worry, concern, and fear.

RA Kathryn Power quickly mobilized to manage the crisis intervention and mental health support that would be needed in the weeks and months to come.”

To see how the RAs responded to these disasters, the article can be accessed at: http://www.samhsa.gov/samhsaNewsletter/Volume_21_Number_3/regional_administrators.aspx

Source: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA News – Summer 2013

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