A new report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that the nation’s many federal programs that support people with mental illness lack systems for coordinating their services and are often poorly evaluated and monitored. (The GAO is a division of Congress that is responsible for investigating and evaluating federal programs to improve performance and accountability to the American people.)
In the report, “MENTAL HEALTH: HHS Leadership Needed to Coordinate Federal Efforts Related to Serious Mental Illness,” the GAO identifies 30 government programs that specifically target individuals with serious mental illness.
These programs are administered by the expected major players: Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Justice (DOJ), Health and Human Services (HHS), Social Security Administration (SSA), and Veterans’ Administration (VA).
Half of the programs provide some type of case management, while the other half are focused on things like prevention, research, technical assistance, and treatment.
These 30 programs are actually just a fraction of the 112 programs that the GAO says more broadly address people with mental illness. Those broad-based programs involve things like services for homeless veterans, many of whom are mentally ill, but for which the entire program isn’t focused on mental illness.
According to the GAO, the 30 major mental illness-focused government programs have no means of coordinating care amongst themselves. An interagency group known as the Federal Executive Steering Committee for Mental Health used to coordinate these types federal services across different agencies, but the group hasn’t met since 2009.
The GAO report strongly urges HHS to develop a means to facilitate coordination at the leadership level across all programs, saying it is essential to determining if there are gaps in services for the majorly mentally ill and for accurately assessing the effectiveness of existing programs.
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