Friday, January 12, 2018

Trump administration ends registry for evidence-based mental health and substance abuse programs

"The Trump administration has abruptly halted work on a highly regarded program to help physicians, families, state and local government agencies, and others separate effective 'evidence-based' treatments for substance abuse and behavioral health problems from worthless interventions," Sharon Begley reports for Stat, the national health-and-science website of The Boston Globe. The move has implications for rural areas because behavioral-health services are less available there.

The program, launched in 1997, is called the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices; its website lists 453 programs aimed at helping issues including opioid addiction, depression, parenting and HIV prevention. "Mental health and addiction specialists say they rely on this database as a key source for finding appropriate and effective therapies," Lena Sun and Juliet Eilperin report for The Washington Post. "Since 2015, the registry has also included evidence that certain interventions do not work, which helps practitioners avoid wasting resources on those programs.

NREPP is run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. During the Obama administration the maintenance of the database was hired out to independent contractor Development Services Group Inc. On Dec. 28, 2017, Development Services was notified that SAMHSA had terminated its contract. The website is still up, but no new entries or modifications are being entered.

"In an online statement, SAMHSA said future work on the registry, including vetting new applications, would be moved in house 'to reconfigure its approach to identifying and disseminating evidence-based practice and programs,'" Begley reports.

SAMHSA has provided no details about how and when it will pick up the registry work. Meanwhile, the decision could throw a monkey wrench into some state health policies, since some states require that public programs only use evidence-based interventions vetted by NREPP.

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