Stronger Together, Faith and Community - SAMHSA's faith-based and community initiatives banner

About Faith-based and Community Initiatives

FBCI supports several programs in mental health services, substance abuse prevention, and addiction treatment at the national, state, and local levels.

The Role of SAMHSA

SAMHSA has actively engaged and supported faith-based and community organizations involved in substance use and mental health services since 1992. For example, the:

  • Community Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership Program includes more than 800 faith-based community partners among its grantees
  • Block and formula grant program funds are available through the states to countless faith-based organizations that engage people with or at risk for mental health and substance use disorders
  • SAMHSA-supported training programs and curricula not only support substance use prevention, addiction treatment, and mental health services education for multi-denominational leaders of the faith community, but also help create integrated, sustainable collaborations at the local level nationwide

SAMHSA became the first Department of Health and Human Services agency to undertake a specific FBCI in 2000. The initiative emphasizes the key role FBCI organizations play in the delivery of substance use prevention, addiction treatment, and mental health services, particularly to underserved communities and culturally diverse populations. Also, SAMHSA’s FBCI Workgroup coordinates work in support of the FBCI that includes identifying and eliminating barriers to these groups.

SAMHSA's experience with faith-based and community organizations to support resilience and recovery in substance use prevention and treatment, and mental health services:

  • Demonstrates the effectiveness of local, grass-roots programs in eliciting positive changes in people's lives
  • Paves the way for individuals to become full partners in American society

Building on Success

Faith-based grant programs and initiatives:

Promoting Partnerships and Best Practices

Through a variety of funding mechanisms, SAMHSA supports the following programs carried out by community and faith-based organizations at the national, state, and local levels:

  • Mental health services
  • Substance use prevention
  • Addiction treatment

Youth Violence Prevention

The SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services School and Community Action Grants/Youth Violence Prevention Cooperative Agreements grant programs promote community-wide efforts to:

  • Prevent youth violence and substance abuse
  • Promote healthy youth development

A number of faith-based organizations are recipients of these funds, including Catholic Charities and the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation.

A key component of this program is the promotion of community coalitions and partnerships to address youth violence and encourage positive youth development. Representatives of the faith community are integral members of these coalitions in a number of the grantee programs.

Increasing Access to Substance Abuse Treatment and HIV/AIDS Services

Through the Targeted Capacity Expansion HIV/AIDS program, SAMHSA Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) is working to increase the availability of substance abuse treatment and HIV/AIDS-related services in African American, Hispanic Latino, and other racial or ethnic minority communities affected by the twin epidemics. Many faith-based organizations are grantees, such as AIDS Interfaith Network, Inc. in New Haven, CT and Metro Interdenominational Church in Nashville, TN.

Also, SAMHSA Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) has provided funding to faith-based and community organizations to address the problem of HIV/AIDS in minority communities, primarily to help build capacity in minority communities for sustained effective efforts to combat substance abuse use and HIV/AIDS. In addition, CSAP has provided funding to support the work of the Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength Village Builder's Project, a faith-based coalition of 40 Detroit, MI, congregations providing culturally-appropriate substance abuse prevention services to families and youth.

Reducing Homelessness

The Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) provides funds from SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services to states and territories that, in turn, allocate money to local agencies, for services to persons with serious mental illnesses, including those with co-occurring substance abuse disorders who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Many of the organizations that receive PATH funds are faith-based. The PATH program is unique since all locally-funded agencies must coordinate their services with faith-based and community organizations serving homeless people with serious mental illnesses.

Crisis Counseling

The faith community played an important role in responding to the tragedy of September 11, 2001. In the past, faith organizations have participated in SAMHSA disaster response programs, among them: Catholic Charities during the Oklahoma bombing, Lutheran Social Services in tornado-related disasters, and the Virgin Islands Baptist Church in responding to hurricanes and other disasters.

Trainings and Conferences

SAMHSA continues to host numerous conferences and training programs that help faith-based and community organizations enhance their work in substance abuse prevention, mental health services, and addiction treatment.

  • SAMHSA began its Grassroots Training Initiative in September 2002. The initiative involves a series of more than 40 training and technical assistance meetings to provide training in grant writing and capacity building. It also introduces SAMHSA and its policy and program priorities to grassroots organizations throughout the country.
  • SAMHSA held its Sixth Annual Symposium for Faith and Community-Based Organizations in August 2002 that focused on strengthening collaborations, expanding local resources, and building capacity to provide substance abuse prevention, treatment, and mental health services, as well as program management and successful grant writing. This SAMHSA-wide Symposium grew out of a 2001 substance abuse prevention-oriented national interfaith meeting sponsored by SAMHSA CSAP. The symposium drew more than 150 members of faith and community organizations and explored promising practices and model substance abuse prevention programs, highlighted the experience of faith organizations involved in prevention, and provided training on the SAMHSA grant application process.
  • CSAT has hosted numerous conferences linked to faith-based efforts since 1998. A CSAT National Faith Initiative Conference was held in 1998 to establish links between substance abuse treatment programs, the National Association of Chaplains, and the One-Church, One Addict organization, followed by a series of four conferences and technical assistance workshops in 2000 that also involved the Johnson Institute Foundation and the National Congress of Black Churches. In 2001, both national and regional focus groups worked to identify and propose ways to eliminate barriers to grassroots organizations successfully competing for SAMHSA funds. Several training and technical assistance conferences on grant writing and best practices were convened, and supplemental grants were made to 24 Targeted Capacity Expansion grantees to collaborate with faith-based organizations for the provision of ancillary services. In 2002, CSAT continued its technical assistance efforts, hosting sessions on promising practices, capacity building, grant writing and evaluation that support and extend the broader SAMHSA training initiatives.

Substance Abuse Resource Guide: Faith Communities

This guide serves a starting point for parents, teachers, researchers, and program directors seeking a review of information available on substance abuse prevention and treatment, and the role of faith-based organizations. It contains information on booklets, brochures, fact sheets, reports, magazines, newsletters, videos, posters, studies, articles, organizations, and Internet sites available.

Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Abuse Challenges and Responses for Faith Leaders

This instructional tool on substance abuse treatment for clergy and lay persons was designed with two goals in mind. The first is to educate clergy about the nature and extent of alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, the process of becoming addicted, and current approaches to preventing, intervening with and treating substance abuse. The second is to encourage clergy to take an active role in confronting substance abuse by sharing the experiences of other faith communities that have already done so.

Funding Opportunities

Information about grant opportunities is available on the SAMHSA website. Also, call SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse on Alcohol and Drug Information at 1-800-729-6686 (1-800-487-4889 TDD) for substance abuse grant applications or SAMHSA's National Mental Health Information Center for mental health grant applications, at 1-800-789-2647 (or 1-800-443-9006 TTY).

Toward the Future

SAMHSA is committed to a policy of respect for and cooperation with faith-based and community organizations. It will continue its work to:

  • Continue training for smaller grassroots and faith-based organizations
  • Convene meetings with faith leaders to address issues involved in funding substance abuse treatment grants to the faith community
  • Establish and maintain a planning group to build strategic alliances with faith-based and community groups
  • Develop a curriculum for seminary students in counseling parents and children of alcoholics, in collaboration with the Johnson Institute Foundation and the National Association of Children of Alcoholics
  • Host dialogues between a small group of congregations and families around issues of mental health, support, and recovery
  • Develop regulations responsive to states, local governments, and religious and provider organizations that will be implementing SAMHSA's Charitable Choice provisions
Last Updated: 05/08/2014