Following up a December 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, testimony last week Linda T. Kohn, Director of Health Care at the GAO describes how fragmented the federal government provides very fragmented support services care for individuals with serious mental illness. Coordinate across agencies is lacking and few agencies have conducted evaluations of their programs.
Agencies identified 112 federal programs that generally supported individuals with serious mental illness in fiscal year 2013. The majority of these programs addressed broad issues, such as individuals suffering from homelessness, which can include individuals with serious mental illness. The programs were spread across eight federal agencies: DOD, DOJ, DOL, Education, HHS, HUD, SSA, and VA….
Interagency coordination for programs supporting individuals with serious mental illness is lacking. HHS [the Department of Health and Human Services] is charged with leading the federal government’s public health efforts related to mental health, and SAMHSA [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] is required to promote coordination of programs relating to mental illness throughout the federal government…
Agencies completed few evaluations of the programs specifically targeting individuals with serious mental illness. As of September 2014, of the 30 programs specifically targeting individuals with serious mental illness, 9 programs had a completed program evaluation—7 by SAMHSA and 2 by DOD.
Ms. Kohn concludes with the following.
In conclusion, individuals with serious mental illness can face significant challenges getting the services they need. The public health, social, and economic impact of serious mental illness, coupled with the constrained fiscal environment of recent years, highlights the need to ensure that federal programs efficiently and effectively use their resources to support
the complex needs of individuals with serious mental illness