SAMHSA behavioral health grants and grant writers

The recent flood of fentanyl, other opioids, and ultra pure lab-produced methamphetamines has made substance use disorder / opioid use disorder (SUD / OUD) and associated overdoses (ODs) skyrockete. There’s been a concomitant rise in mental health issues, particularly, but not exclusively, among children and teens. Various federal departments, most obviously the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA), have noticed this, and Congress has consequently allocated additional funding to cover mental health and behavioral health issues. SUD / OUD in combination with other challenges make behavioral health prevention and treatment grants extremely important to keep up with local needs. Note that in recent years, the feds have grouped OUD, SUD, and mental health services prevention and treatment grants under the umbrella phrase “behavioral health services,” so it’s best to use this term when conducting online grant source searches.

The federal government’s primary sources for behavioral health services grants are:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): The main grant making functions of SAMHSA are offered by three sub-agencies: Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), and Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). This is a somewhat archaic arrangement with the CSAP / CSAT distinction left over from the early days of the four-decade long and failed “War on Drugs.” In recent years, there’s much more money available from CSAT than CSAP, perhaps because of the rise in OUD and ODs, or maybe because the feds are less naive about how efficacious “prevention” really is. As with HRSA below, SAMHSA has emphasized funding for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs in recent years. Regardless of the sub-agency funding source, getting a SAMHSA grant is a badge of honor for grantees, particularly for nonprofits. This is because the number of grants available in most SAMHSA NOFOs (Notice of Funding Opportunities, which is SAMHSA-speak for RFPs) is relatively small, perhaps 20 – 30, which means the competition is higher than for many federal grant processes. In other words, it’s harder to get a SAMHSA grant than a HRSA grant, which is well known. So, if your agency is applying for any other federal grants and you’re able to crow about your SAMHSA grant in the proposal, this will impress readers. Like in high school, the best way to get a date for the spring prom is to have had a great date for the previous fall formal.
  • Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA): HRSA has many grant programs for SUD, OUD, and mental health prevention and treatment. While some HRSA grant programs restrict applicants to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), others are open to nonprofit and public agency applicants, including school districts. Interestingly, HRSA has some grant programs for rural areas only, while most programs can include a mix of rural and/or urban target areas. Similarly, some HRSA programs are for very specific target populations, such as middle and high school students or injection drug users (IDUs), while others allow a broader client/community focus. It’s important to match the proposal population of focus (this is the newest, more PC term for “target population”) with the population specified in the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA, which is HRSA-speak for RFP). In recent years, HRSA has issued many NOFAs for Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs, which offer medication to opioid users in order to get those users off oxycodone, oxycontin, heroin, and related substances. The most frequently offered medication is Suboxone.
  • Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): While the CDC primarily funds research (about $50B annually), some CDC grants are available for direct human services, including behavioral health. For example, we recently wrote a CDC proposal to improve health outcomes, including behavioral health, for “young transgendered men of color.” This is obviously a highly specific target population, but other CDC programs will fund broader initiatives. An example of this type of CDC NOFO are several chronic disease assistance programs like peer support services for people with type 2 diabetes; we’ve written these as well.

Our decades of experience in writing funded HRSA, SAMHSA, and CDC grants means that Seliger + Associates can help your agency get its piece of the behavioral health services grant pie by writing your entire proposal or editing your draft for a reasonable flat fee. Call us at 800.540.8906, ext. 1, or email us at for a fast free fee quote.