Dems question decision to end registry for substance abuse, mental health programs

Dems question decision to end registry for substance abuse, mental health programs
© Greg Nash

Top Democrats in the Senate are questioning the Trump administration over its decision to end a national registry for evidence-based mental health and substance abuse programs.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) ended the contract for the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) earlier this month, calling it a flawed and ineffective system.


"We are concerned that freezing NREPP means individuals and communities that may benefit from these new programs will not be able to learn about them or access them, and that the freeze also may hamper the work being done around the country to develop important interventions at a time when we are in the midst of a heroin, fentanyl and opioid epidemic and we need them more than ever," five Democratic senators, led by Sen. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanNew Hampshire's secretary of state narrowly holds seat New Hampshire Dem icon at risk after work with Trump Dem senators call on DeVos to rescind new campus sexual assault policies MORE (N.H.), wrote in a letter to Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance abuse.

The letter was also signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Debate builds over making Mueller report public BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president MORE (Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann Warren2020 Dems seize on MLK Day for campaign messaging Kamala Harris staffer mocks O'Reilly for saying Harris 'lost' his vote for president Kamala Harris announces presidential campaign MORE (Mass.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenGOP reasserts NATO support after report on Trump’s wavering Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days MORE (N.H.)

The database was created in 1997 to help people, agencies and organizations identify and implement evidence-based programs and practices in their communities.

It will no longer be updated and some entries may be removed as SAMHSA works on developing a new entity that will study and promote evidence-based practices.

The senators say it's unclear when the new entity will be ready, what resources it will provide to behavioral health practitioners or if it will include a new database. 

"We are concerned that behavioral health practitioners will not be able to access data on evidence-based practices if no new registry is available," the senators said.

The senators note that NREPP was discontinued before the new entity was fully implemented. 

"This is especially concerning for behavioral health professionals who rely on up-to-date data from NREPP as a resource for their daily work," the senators said.

McCance-Katz, in a call with reporters last week, defended ending the database, arguing it was flawed and did not address the needs of people with serious mental illnesses or drug abuse disorders, particularly opioid addiction.

"We have an emergency going on, and we in the Trump administration are not going to sit back and allow Americans to die while we simply leave things up on our website that don't help people," she said.