Happy 40th Birthday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services!

Publication Date: Oct 17, 2019

On October 17, 1979, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was established and differentiated from the pre-existing Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. In recognition of HHS's 40th birthday, we at the South Southwest MHTTC are celebrating our collaborations with the federal, state, and local Health and Human Services Commissions.


Happy Birthday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, from all of your friends at the South Southwest Mental Health Technology Transfer Center!


Today, we are proudly celebrating our federal behavioral health department! The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the country’s leading mental health and substance use agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funds and provides ongoing support to the national TTC network and other state and local efforts and initiatives that work to improve mental health and substance use services through grants, contracts, and technical assistance. We are grateful for the Department and its ongoing commitment to promoting the mental health of communities across the country.


Today we also celebrate the state and local agencies (and tribal communities) within and across the South Southwest region, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, all of which are affiliates of the Department and carry out its mission of promoting positive mental health outcomes among diverse communities within our region by establishing, expanding, or enhancing an organized, community-based system for providing mental health services for adults with serious mental illness (SMI), children with serious emotional disturbances (SED), and adults and adolescents with or at risk for substance use disorder (SUD).


The TTC model is a unique collaborative structure that supports efforts across the behavioral health workforce as well as professionals from all domains that interact with individuals experiencing mental health challenges. Our state and local behavioral health agencies play a critical role in our success delivering training and ongoing consultation to advance evidence-based and best practices that support the mental health of diverse communities in our region. The following list is just a sample of the ways in which our state and local agencies provide critical support to the region:


  • Regional Advisory Board (RAB) membership: State agency leads, executives, and administrators are members of our regional advisory board, an entity comprised of representatives from the agencies as well as other mental health experts in academia and advocacy. The RAB provides guidance and support to the region’s TTC network, which also includes the Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC), housed at the Addiction Research Institute at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and the Prevention Technology Transfer Center, housed at the University of Oklahoma. It also informs the needs of every state in the region, helping each TTC identify the complexities of delivering mental health care and the ways the TTCs could support state and local agencies.
  • Peer Support: The state agencies in the South Southwest region, especially the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, are committed to advancing the field of certified peer support specialists who play a critical role in the recovery support system spectrum. They are uniquely able to relate to individuals experiencing mental health challenges and help individuals navigate the complexities of service systems. In Texas, peer support specialists are finally able to bill Medicaid for their services. The SSW-MHTTC is committed to advancing the role of peer support specialists and co-hosted a regional conference for peers across the region this year.
  • Emergency response systems:  An important role for TTCs across the country is to be flexible enough to be able to respond any emerging needs within states, including an emergency response system to the mass shooting incidents. HHSC in Texas responded by traveling to the prominent communities impacted by mass violence this year, including El Paso, Midland, and Odessa and collecting data from professionals involved in the mental health chair position. They have been incredibly helpful, making sure we know the nuances of the cities and the factors contributing to the mass violence incidents.


These examples highlight the important role of the federal, state, and local health and human services agencies have played in our success during our first year of implementation. These projects, as well as others, will be the source of our celebration today and for the next forty years to come!


Happy Birthday, U.S. HHS!


Written by: Alycia Welch, Program Administrator