It recognizes that research and services related to prevention of mental disorders have high relevance to the many other agendas and priorities of Congress and the President. These include the lack of high-quality education, deteriorating cities, drug problems, the lack of housing, poverty, and the lack of universal health care. Mental disorders contribute to these problems and vice versa; therefore, ultimate solutions must be broad in scope.
Adequate staffing and resources are essential to successful coordination of prevention research regardless of where it is located in the federal government. Moreover, the quality of leadership and extent of commitment among agendes are often far more important than the precise location of a coordination office. Leadership and commitment cannot be fully controlled, no matter how careful the plans may be. The competence of the particular individuals chosen to lead the effort and the politics of the day often determine whether interagency coordination is truly successful or merely an effort that consumes staff time and wastes increasingly scarce federal dollars. Despite these caveats, the committee nonetheless believes that a coordinating committee at the highest possible level with adequate staffing is necessary to weave together disparate federal activities in many different departments.
The committee strongly recommends that a mechanism be created to coordinate research and services on prevention of mental disorders across the federal departments. One model for accomplishing this would be the establishment of a national scientific council on the prevention of mental disorders by Congress and/or the President. Such an overarching federal council could be operated out of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy or another coordinating office within the Executive Office of the President. This council should formulate policies regarding preventive intervention research, evaluation of prevention services, knowledge exchange, coordination of interagency research efforts, and training. Because prevention activities span different departments, the members of the council should be appointed after soliciting nominations from a wide constituency who are willing to use the definitions and rigorous methodological criteria developed in this report to foster policies that will reduce the onset of mental disorders and related problems. Members should include—as equal partners—ex-officio high-level representatives of relevant federal agencies, including but not limited to the Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, Labor, Education, Defense, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as representatives from state agencies, private foundations, universities, and the public at large. A broad range of disciplines, including medicine (pediatrics, child psychi-