Approximately 10 million people in the United States live with serious mental illness, with 35 percent receiving no mental health services. In 2016, Congress took action to address this area of need and passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes the formation of the Interagency Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) as a way to coordinate the efforts of federal agencies and policymakers more effectively.

ISMICC is tasked with reporting advances, sharing research, highlighting improved services and support, and evaluating federal programs related to serious mental illness. The committee’s goal is to improve access and quality of treatment and recovery support services. This includes suicide prevention, evidence-based job training and employment, supported housing and other evidenced-based treatment services. It will also determine action steps for agencies to improve coordination related to adults with serious mental illness (SMI) and children and youth experiencing serious emotional disturbance (SED). ISMICC will also focus on how best to expand evidence-based prevention, detection, and intervention.

ISMICC activity is directed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and is chaired by SAMHSA’s Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Elinore F. McCance-Katz, M.D., Ph.D. Members include 10 cabinet-level federal representatives, or their designees, and 14 non-federal public members.

Organized in March 2017, and authorized by the 21st century Cures Act in December 2016, ISMICC will work through 2022. The first committee meeting took place in August, where members had an opportunity to talk about their professional experiences or their personal circumstance living with or supporting family with mental illness, and their hopes for what ISMICC might accomplish. Distinct tasks for the committee, as outlined in the legislation, include:

  • A summary of research advances related to prevention, diagnosis, intervention, treatment, and recovery of or from SMI and SED.
  • In-person meetings at least twice each year.
  • Formation of workgroups on specific topics or concerns.
  • The development of two reports to Congress.

After the initial meeting, the ISMICC has developed five working groups:

  • Access and Engagement
  • Models of Treatment and Recovery Support Services
  • Criminal Justice Issues
  • Quality, Data, and Evaluation
  • Financing

Each group will deliberate periodically to discuss gaps, needs, and determine recommendations to bring before the larger group.

At the initial meeting, Dr. McCance-Katz asked committee members to consider a number of areas of need, including:

  • understanding how best to keep people with SMI out of jails and prisons,
  • supporting nurturing therapeutic relationships between providers and consumers,
  • better understanding how civil commitment laws can be appropriately used,
  • improving access to care,
  • improving use of psychotropic medications, particularly for individuals experiencing psychosis,
  • improving workforce capacity, and
  • making better use of evidence-based treatment, such as Assertive Community Treatment, Assisted Outpatient Treatment, and linkages with peers to support recovery.

ISMICC members discussed their first big task – the first report to Congress that will include ways that serious mental illness is best addressed, a path forward for evaluating existing federal programs and their efficacy, and recommendations from the committee members. The report will be released in December.

Federal Members

The Secretary of Health and Human Services

The Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use

The Attorney General

The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs

The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs

The Secretary of the Department of Defense

The Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development

The Secretary of the Department of Education

The Secretary of the Department of Labor

The Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration

Non-Federal Partners

Linda S. Beeber, Ph.D., PMHCNS-BC, FAAN, Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, School of Nursing

Ron Bruno, Founding Board Member and Second Vice President, CIT International

Clayton Chau, M.D., Ph.D., Regional Executive Medical Director, Institute for Mental Health and Wellness at St. Joseph-Hoag Health

David Covington, LPC, MBA, CEO/President, RI International

Maryann Davis, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Pete Earley, Author

Paul Emrich, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Family and Mental Health, Chickasaw Nation

Mary Giliberti, J.D., Chief Executive Officer, National Alliance on Mental Illness

Elena Kravitz, Peer Support Provider and Manager, Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey

Kenneth Minkoff, M.D., Zia Partners

Elyn Saks, J.D., Ph.D., Professor of Law, Legal Scholar, University of Southern California Gould School of Law

John Snook, Esq., Executive Director/Attorney, Treatment Advocacy Center

Rhathelia Stroud, J.D., Presiding Judge, DeKalb County Magistrate Court

Conni Wells, Owner/Manager, Axis Group, LLC


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