Feds look to health IT to improve behavioral health

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.

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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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