Dear SAMHSA Colleagues,
This past June, President Obama, accompanied by the First Lady, made a trip to Indian Country. During the trip, the President announced several initiatives that build on the significant progress the Administration has made in the government-to-government relationship with tribal nations and also acknowledged the work that remains. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has an important responsibility to build on our good work to promote prosperous and resilient tribal nations.
That’s why today, I am announcing the creation of the SAMHSA Office of Tribal Affairs and Policy (OTAP). This new office is organizationally housed in the Office of Planning, Policy, and Innovation (OPPI) and serves as SAMHSA’s primary point of contact for tribal governments, tribal organizations, federal departments and agencies, and other governments and agencies on behavioral health issues facing American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) in the U.S. Establishing OTAP within OPPI will support SAMHSA’s efforts to advance development and implementation of data-driven policies and innovative practices that promote improved behavioral health for AI/AN communities and populations.
OTAP will bring together SAMHSA’s tribal affairs, tribal policy, tribal consultation, tribal advisory, and Tribal Law and Order Act responsibilities to improve agency coordination and meaningful progress. I have asked Mirtha Beadle who currently serves as the Deputy Director for the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) to lead this new office. Many of you know that Mirtha has worked with me on tribal issues at SAMHSA and in her prior roles in the Office of the Secretary, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). She will be joined in OTAP by Sheila Cooper who serves as Senior Advisor for Tribal Affairs and the staff of the Office of Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse (OIASA). Rod Robinson, Director of OIASA for the last two years, has taken another federal position that will allow him to be in his home state of Montana more often. We thank Rod for his commitment to improving the lives of tribal communities and work to advance SAMHSA’s responsibilities under the Tribal Law and Order Act. Mirtha will also serve as Acting OIASA Director until the position is filled permanently.
Richard Moore will take on the role of Acting Deputy Director of CSAP. Fran Harding, Director of CSAP, and I want to thank Mirtha for her work in CSAP, and we thank Richard for his willingness to step in to assist CSAP in continuing its great work to prevent substance abuse in the U.S. and to help lead prevention Strategic Initiative efforts across SAMHSA.
I have also asked the new OTAP to continue to lead and work with the SAMHSA AI/AN Team (SAI/ANT) to continue coordinating tribal programs and issues across SAMHSA and to work collaboratively with SAMHSA’s centers and offices on tribal issues. Mirtha will continue to chair the SAI/ANT. I look forward to the meaningful progress that SAMHSA will make in partnership with tribal nations.