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Feds Close 'Evidence Based' National Registry for Mental Health Programs

School districts looking for interventions to prevent teen drug use and boost students' mental health may soon have one less place to turn.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has put a halt on the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices. The center, which had been recently redesigned, reviews interventions intended to reduce mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse. It includes a database of some 500 programs judged to be scientifically valid and effective, including in several areas of concern to schools, like teen suicide prevention and the use of arts programs for social-emotional learning. (Updated: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration plans to move the responsibilities for the registry to its policy lab; no word yet on what changes that will mean.)

Martha Yeide of the Development Services Group, Inc., the contractor for the center, confirmed that it received a letter Dec. 28 telling the group to stop work by Jan. 26, six months before the contract was scheduled to expire. The contract was ended "for the convenience of the government, not for cost," and there have been no moves to switch the site to a new contractor, suggesting NIMH may take it offline or leave it as a static site. The NIH has not yet responded to a request for more information.

The announcement comes during a somewhat tumultuous period for advocates of evidence-based policy. The fiscal 2018 budget proposals in both the House and the Senate include millions of dollars in cuts to research across agencies (Congress may vote on a final omnibus spending bill later this month), and last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were advised not to use words like "evidence-based" and "science-based" in the agency's 2019 budget request. While an evidence-based policy bill backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan has passed that chamber, its sister bill has not moved out of committee in the Senate. 

Correction: An earlier version of this post listed SAMHSA as part of the National Institutes of Health; it is part of the Health and Human Services Administration.

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