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.

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"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) HassanSenators sound alarm on dangers of ransomware attacks after briefing Biden reveals four women he could pick as his running mate Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack 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 FeinsteinGiffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Senate confirms Trump pick labeled 'not qualified' by American Bar Association Feinstein endorses Christy Smith for Katie Hill's former House seat MORE (Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash MORE (Mass.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East | Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty Biden reveals four women he could pick as his running mate 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.