Nominee to HHS mental health post has been critical of fed’s role
The 21st Century Cures Act created a new role within HHS tasked with better coordinating more than 100 federal programs that aid people with mental illness and substance abuse. In late April, President Donald Trump nominated Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz as the nation’s first assistant secretary for mental health and substance abuse.
If confirmed, McCance-Katz would oversee more than 600 employees and a budget of nearly $4 billion. McCance-Katz, chief medical officer for Rhode Island’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, was the chief medical director of HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration from 2013 to 2015.
SAMHSA was highly critical of the 21st Century Cures Act when McCance-Katz was there. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), a chief author of the mental health reform bill, lambasted her nomination because of her work with SAMHSA.
When she left SAMHSA, McCance-Katz wrote a commentary in Psychiatric Times that criticized the federal government’s approach to treating patients with serious mental illness. “SAMHSA does not address the treatment needs of the most vulnerable in our society,” she wrote.