Partnering with SAMHSA on Clinical Rotations

PAEA President Elect Howard Straker, EdD, MPH, PA-C, along with the Association’s Government Relations Team, last month met with Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Elinore McCance-Katz, MD, PhD, of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 

Building on a 2017 meeting to highlight the PA education model and McCance-Katz’s extensive practice experience with PAs, Straker emphasized the capacity of the PA profession to help meet the mental and behavioral health needs of patients. The purpose of this meeting was to provide an update on the progress of PAEA’s Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Initiative and to request an ongoing partnership with SAMHSA to improve access to mental and behavioral health clinical rotations for PA students.

During the meeting, Dave Keahey and Tyler Smith of the Government Relations Team told McCance-Katz about the significant progress PAEA has achieved through our MAT Initiative. The aim of the initiative is also a key goal for both SAMHSA and McCance-Katz. Since the initiative began in 2018, the percentage of programs requiring students to complete the waiver training has risen from 2.7 percent to 29.7 percent. Of programs not currently requiring students to complete the training, 51 anticipate doing so by May 2020 — resulting in a projected adoption rate of nearly 60 percent.

PAEA also requested SAMHSA’s partnership in securing behavioral health clinical rotations for PA students. Specifically, PAEA urged SAMHSA to allow certified community behavioral health clinics that receive expansion grants from the agency to use a portion of the grant funding to offset the costs associated with training PA students. SAMHSA recognized the importance of training PA students to long-term service delivery capacity, and PAEA committed to working with the agency on new language for future funding opportunity announcements.

“I would like to thank Assistant Secretary McCance-Katz for her strong support of PAs and PA education as an important part of the solution to the nation’s opioid crisis,” said Straker. “Through our ongoing partnership, I am confident that we can make significant progress toward ensuring PA students have the clinical training experiences necessary to enhance their role in responding to the opioid epidemic.”