About the Agency (SAMHSA)

Agency Overview


Behavioral health is a component of service systems that improve health status and contain health care and other costs to society. Yet, people with mental and substance use disorders, because of their illness, have largely been excluded from the current health care system and rely on public "safety net" programs. Last year alone approximately 20 million people who needed substance abuse treatment did not receive it and an estimated 10.6 million adults reported an unmet need for mental health care. As a result the health and wellness of the individual is jeopardized and the unnecessary costs to society ripple across America's communities, schools, businesses, prisons & jails, and healthcare delivery systems.

2012 marks SAMHSA’s 20th Anniversary. To find out more about SAMHSA’s history and to help us celebrate, click here.


SAMHSA provides leadership and devotes its resources - programs, policies, information and data, contracts and grants- toward helping the Nation act on the knowledge that:

  • Behavioral Health is essential for health;
  • Prevention works;
  • Treatment is effective; and
  • People recover from mental and substance use disorders


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

Strategic Initiatives

In order to achieve this mission, SAMHSA has identified 8 Strategic Initiatives to focus the Agency's work on improving lives and capitalizing on emerging opportunities. More information on SAMHSA's Strategic Initiatives can be found in the document Leading Change: A Plan for SAMHSA's Roles and Actions 2011 - 2014 (pdf | 778 kbytes)

Organizational Overview

SAMHSA was established in 1992 and directed by Congress to target effectively substance abuse and mental health services to the people most in need and to translate research in these areas more effectively and more rapidly into the general health care system. Over the years SAMHSA has demonstrated that - prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover from mental and substance use disorders. Behavioral health services improve health status and reduce health care and other costs to society. Continued improvement in the delivery and financing of prevention, treatment and recovery support services provides a cost effective opportunity to advance and protect the Nation's health.

To accomplish its work SAMHSA administers a combination of competitive, formula, and block grant programs and data collection activities. The Agency's programs are carried out through its centers and offices:

SAMHSA Centers

SAMHSA Offices

Together these units support States, Territories, Tribes, communities, and local organizations through grant and contract awards and provide national leadership in promoting the provision of quality behavioral health services. Major activities to improve the quality and availability of prevention, treatment and recovery support services are funded through competitive Programs of Regional and National Significance grants. A number of supporting offices complement the work of the four Centers.

SAMHSA's core competencies include releasing and managing block grants and special programmatic funding and providing states, providers, communities and the public with the best and most up-to-date information about behavioral health issues and prevention/treatment approaches. Increasingly, we are expanding those competencies to focus collectively on using SAMHSA's resources and influence to effect real and measurable differences in the lives of people and communities throughout America.

SAMHSA has a National Advisory Council. Please see the SAMHSA National Advisory Council page for more information about the council and its charter.

Last updated: 06/28/2012