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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Office of Behavioral Health Equity (OBHE)


To reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on populations that experience behavioral health disparities by improving access to quality services and supports that enable individuals and families to thrive, participate in and contribute to healthy communities


SAMHSA's OBHE works to ensure that all populations have equitable access to high quality behavioral health care through addressing and aligning the five strategic areas within SAMHSA of data, communications, policy, quality practice and workforce development and customer service.

Director's Bio:

Larke Nahme Huang, Ph.D., a licensed clinical-community psychologist, is a Senior Advisor in the Administrator's Office of Policy Planning and Innovation at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this position she provides leadership on national policy for mental health and substance use issues for children, adolescents and families and leads the Administrator's strategic initiative on Trauma and Justice. She is also the Director of SAMHSA's Office of Behavioral Health Equity which was legislated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health reform). In 2009, she did a six-month leadership exchange at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) where she was the Senior Advisor on Mental Health.

For the past 25 years, Huang has worked at the interface of practice, research and policy. She has assumed multiple leadership roles dedicated to improving the lives of children, families and communities. She has been a community mental health practitioner, a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley and Georgetown University, and a research director at the American Institutes for Research. She has worked with states and communities to build systems of care for children with serious emotional and behavioral disorders. She has developed programs for underserved, culturally and linguistically diverse populations, evaluated community-based programs, and authored books and articles on behavioral health. Recent publications include: Children of Color: Psychological Interventions with Culturally Diverse Youth; Transforming Mental Health Care for Children and Their Families; The Influence of Race and Ethnicity on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Clinical Characteristics of Children and Adolescents in Children's Service; and Co-Occurring Disorders of Adolescents in Primary Care: Closing the Gaps.

In 2003, Huang served as an appointed Commissioner on the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. She was a member of the Carter Center Mental Health Board, the APA Committee on Children, Youth and Families, the Advisory Committee for the APA Minority Fellowship Program, and a founding board member of the National Asian American/Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, and the National Alliance of Multi-Ethnic Behavioral Health Associations.

Dr. Huang recently received the following honors: Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest, American Psychological Association, 2007; Dr. James Jones Lifetime Achievement Award, APA, 2007; Outstanding Psychologist of the Year, National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI), 2005; Presidential Citation, APA, 2011 and 2004; Distinguished Contributions Award, Asian American Psychological Association, 2004; Champion for Children's Mental Health Needs, Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health, 2003.

She received her doctorate from Yale University.

Brief overview of the work:

The Office of Behavioral Health Equity (OBHE) works to ensure that SAMHSA's policies and program are implemented to promote effective cross-cultural partnerships, relevant data collection, culturally appropriate outreach and engagement, and ready access to quality services. These efforts are directed to support populations experiencing or vulnerable to behavioral health disparities in thriving, participating in, and contributing to healthy communities. OBHE is organized around five key strategies: data, communication, policy, quality practice and workforce development and customer service/technical assistance.

In 2011-2012, OBHE launched several projects in these strategy areas:

A Data and Policy Project:
In response to the Secretarial priority to "develop disparity impact statements in grantee programs", OBHE has developed a disparity measurement strategy to be implemented in its discretionary and block grant portfolio. SAMHSA's disparity measure is built on access to services, services utilized, and outcomes of the services, disaggregated by race and ethnicity among the grantee population served. Implementing this disparity impact statement also entailed revisiting agency grant making processes to ensure that the disparity data collected by grantees is used by SAMHSA staff to promote strategies that reduce these disparities.

Three Practice Improvement and Workforce Development Projects:

The NNEDLearn 2012:
The National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health (NNED) brings together, in a virtual network structure, community-based organizations addressing the behavioral health needs of diverse racial, ethnic and LGBT populations. The network supports information exchange, and peer-to-peer training and technical assistance for its approximately 1,200 member organizations and affiliates. The NNED identifies and links "pockets of excellence" in reducing disparities and promoting behavioral health equity, and strives to avoid the tendency to "reinvent the wheel." The NNED effectively:

  • Coordinates the sharing of community-based knowledge and training of cultural, indigenous, and community-based best practices;
  • Fosters new collaborative partnerships to grow and spread exemplary practices or policies that reduce disparities;
  • Leverages resources through partnering and collaborative initiatives;
  • Fosters research practice partnerships
  • Supports the adaptation of evidence-supported practices for diverse populations.
In March 2012, OBHE will convene the NNEDLearn 2012, an on-site intensive training for NNED partners on clinical and organizational practices identified by the NNED partners as high need practices for their communities. The training model includes 6 months follow-up coaching to facilitate uptake of the new practices in the community organizations.

The Tribal Colleges and University Behavioral Health Institute

In collaboration with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), OBHE will host the Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) Behavioral Health Institute in March 2012. The event will focuses on the impact of behavioral health on student retention and workforce development. The approach, modeled after SAMHSA's work with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), will engage TCU Presidents and student leaders to develop strategies for expanding campus capacity for behavioral health services creating and promoting the behavioral health career pipeline for tribal students. Pacific Jurisdictions Master Trainer Program.

SAMHSA is partnering with the Pacific Behavioral Health Collaborating Council (PBHCC) to support the Master Trainer Development Program for Pacific Jurisdictions. This one year training and skill building effort is designed to develop the expertise of a set of Pacific Islander Master Trainer candidates to provide behavioral health training to their Pacific colleagues.

Ways to Connect
Follow @samhsagov

Media contact:
Nancy Ayers, Acting Director of Office of Communications at (240) 276-2134

Content Last Modified: 4/11/2012 2:46:00 PM
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