By: Paolo del Vecchio, M.S.W., Director, SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services

One of the most important advances in treating serious mental illness in recent years is improving care for

people experiencing a first onset of serious mental illness. We know that early phases of psychosis can be identified, and that team based coordinated specialty care treatment reduces the likelihood of long-term disability. SAMHSA’s new Early Serious Mental Illness Treatment Locator will help connect people experiencing a first onset of serious mental illness to effective care.

Similar to SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator, this online tool users to search for specialty programs that treat early serious mental illness, including first episode psychosis. Each program listing includes eligibility criteria, including age range and diagnoses treated, services provided, location and contact information. This information can serve as a lifeline to people who urgently need help.

With SAMHSA’s support, the number of specialty programs that provide evidence-based care for early serious mental illness, including first episode psychosis, has increased dramatically. These programs are based on the Coordinated Specialty Care model. This model provides a personal treatment plan and a large support system, with reductions in hospitalizations and increased participation in education and employment.

The creation of the Early Serious Mental Illness Treatment Locator represents the latest step at the federal level to assist people with a first onset of serious mental illness. For example, since 2016, SAMHSA has required states to use 10 percent of their Community Mental Health Services Block Grant funds to assist people experiencing first episode psychosis. The Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee is tasked with enhancing coordination across the federal government and the public to improve the lives of those affected by serious mental illness and serious emotional disturbances.

Programs that treat early serious mental illness, including first episode psychosis programs, are becoming more available. In two years, we have gone from a few programs in 17 states to over 270 programs in 49 states. With SAMHSA's Early Serious Mental Illness Treatment Locator, finding high quality treatment will be faster and easier. Now more than ever, we can help connect people with early serious mental illness to treatment they need to recover.