Trump Administration Halts Registry Used by Mental Health Professionals

Updates to a government-run database of evidence-based treatments related to mental health and substance abuse have been halted by the Trump administration. The news was publicized following an email received by the database’s developers on Jan 4.

The National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) was widely used by doctors, state and local governments and the general public to determine which mental health and substance abuse programs were useful treatments.

Launched in 1997, NREPP lists 453 tested and reviewed interventions and can be tailored based on multiple demographic factors such as ethnicity, location, gender and sexual preference.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is in charge of the registry, which was last updated in September. SAMHSA’s website states that its Policy Lab will work on a new approach to identifying and disseminating evidence-based practices and programs by talking with other institutions within the government such as the National Institutes of Health.

During a conference call Jan. 11, Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, said that NREPP was not a beneficial database, and there was a “complete lack of linkage” between evidence-based practices and actual treatment of mental illness and substance abuse.

In a statement from McCance-Katz, she said that NREPP vetted programs submitted by outside developers, which resulted in treatments that did not meet the full spectrum of needs of people with substance abuse issues and mental illness. These needs include screenings, treatments, psychotherapies, recovery services and more. SAMHSA said it will now identifying evidence-based treatments in-house. McCance-Katz added:

The program as currently configured often produces few to no results, when such common search terms as “medication-assisted treatment” or illnesses such as ”schizophrenia” are entered. There is a complete lack of a linkage between all of the [evidence-based programs] that are necessary to provide effective care and treatment to those living with mental and substance use disorders, as well. If someone with limited knowledge about various mental and substance use disorders were to go to the NREPP website, they could come away thinking that there are virtually no EBPs for opioid use disorder and other major mental disorders – which is completely untrue.

While McCance-Katz expressed that NREPP was flawed, the database was still widely used by mental health and medical professionals, some of whom voiced their concern on Twitter.

The registry is still available online but has not been updated since September. Christopher Jones, director of SAMHSA’s mental health and substance use policy laboratory, said it will probably be available until a new system is in place. What the new system will be, as well as the timeline for getting it up, is unclear.

On Wednesday, a handful of U.S. senators sent a letter of concern to McCance-Katz in response to the discontinuation of NREPP. They wrote:

We understand that the Policy Lab is going to ‘play a central role in shaping SAMHSA’s efforts to bring more science to the evidence-based practices used in the prevention, treatment, and support services being provided by behavioral health practitioners and other clinicians’; however, it is unclear when the Policy Lab will be ready as a resource and what resources it will include for behavioral health practitioners.

Under the 21st Century Cures Act, the Policy Lab was supposed to be up and running by Jan. 1. No announcements have been made as to when the Policy Lab will provide resources to health professionals, the senators wrote, adding that the lab is not fully staffed.

“Given that NREPP was discontinued before the Policy Lab was fully implemented, this is especially concerning for behavioral health professionals who rely on up-to-date data from NREPP as a resource for their daily work,” the letter stated.

Got a tip for our news team? Send it to [email protected].

Photo by vadimguzhva

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

photos of black TV actors from TV series

3 Shows Normalizing Black Mental Health (and Doing It Well)

As a mental health advocate, suicide survivor and entertainment enthusiast, it brings me great joy to see the direction that black Hollywood is moving in to normalize the mental health conversation. While the stories are fabricated for entertainment purposes, it is necessary to show black characters who struggle with mental illness; how it impacts their life [...]
Woman in hypnosis lying on psychotherapist sofa

Why Therapy Isn't Just 'Paying Someone to Listen'

“Why should I pay someone to listen to me talk?” “I don’t need to pay someone to pretend to care about me.” “I don’t want to talk to a stranger about such personal stuff.” These are things that I once said and thought. I was hesitant to start therapy because I felt like I had [...]
holly butcher

What Holly Butcher's Facebook Post Meant to Me as Someone With Mental Illness

I was scrolling through my various social media and news accounts when I came across an article on BuzzFeed. It was about a young woman named Holly Butcher that recently passed away due to a rare form of bone cancer. Before she passed, she wrote an incredibly heartbreaking and thought provoking post about some life [...]
American flag on the shoulder of a army uniform

Trump Signs Executive Order to Help Prevent Veteran Suicides

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday providing more mental health services and resources to veterans transitioning out of the military in an attempt to lower veteran suicides. The order gives officials at the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security 60 days to create a joint plan of action to provide better access [...]