01/24/2012 10:36 am ET Updated Mar 25, 2012

SAMHSA Statistics Ignore 500,000 Mentally Ill

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency's most recent and widely-quoted report on the prevalence of 'any' mental illness and 'serious' mental illness in America failed to count the 300,000 individuals with serious mental illness in jails and prisons, the 200,00 who are homeless and the 51,000 mentally ill who are in hospitals. Excluding these individuals led SAMHSA to understate the incidence of serious mental illness and overstate the percentage who receive treatment.

The new report acknowledges in the introduction and methodology sections that they ignored the incarcerated, institutionalized and homeless, but did not do so in their press release which is what most media apparently worked off of. Excluding these populations led to understating the number with serious mental illness, and since the chances of homeless or incarcerated receiving good treatment is next to nil, also understating the percentage who receive treatment.

SAMHSA has come under increasing criticism for their failure to focus on serious mental illness. A recent article by leading researcher Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, is but the latest example. I have written on SAMHSA waste of taxpayer dollars for DC Insider, a whistleblower group and the Washington Times. Those articles highlight the mission-creep, waste, and counterproductivities at SAMHSA and suggest eliminating it would save money for taxpayers and improve care for people with serious mental illness. Worthwhile programs within SAMHSA (and they do exist) could be transferred to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and other organizations that are much more effective, efficient, and focused than SAMHSA.