Feds look to health IT to improve behavioral health

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awards $4M in grants to 6 underserved communities
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The federal government will hand out more than $4 million in grants nationwide in an effort to use health information technology to help substance abuse and mental health professionals in underserved areas, according to an announcement.

The six U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grants range from $718,000 to $840,000. According to SAMHSA, grant recipients will use the money to pay for technologies such as smartphones, behavioral health electronic applications and web-based services to improve communications, tracking and management efforts.

Among the grantees are the Iowa Department of Public Health in Des Moines, slated to receive $838,200; the Irene Stacy Community Mental Health Center in Butler, Pa., which will receive $718,547; and Promesa Behavioral Health, Inc., in Fresno, Calif., which will receive $840,000.

The grants are part of a three-year effort announced by SAMHSA last October that will provide up to $25 million to a total of 29 behavioral health treatment programs across the U.S.

Momentum for incentivizing the use of technology for behavioral health and substance abuse providers has been steadily growing of late. A bill introduced to the House earlier this summer by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) seeks to extend Meaningful Use incentives to eligible providers who offer such treatment. What's more, the Rhode Island Quality Institute in March received a $600,000 grant from the federal government to extend access to its statewide health information exchange to behavioral health providers.

To learn more and to see all of the grant recipients:
- here's the SAMHSA announcement

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