Senate Confirms New Mental Health Chief
by Brianna Ehley Politico August 3, 2017
The Senate today confirmed Elinore McCance-Katz to be the first HHS assistant secretary for mental health and substance abuse — a position created under mental health reform legislation enacted last year.
A clinical psychiatrist who served as the first chief medical officer for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. McCance-Katz resigned in 2015 amid disagreements with SAMHSA leadership and has been publiclycritical of their work, which she says prioritizes recovery programs over treatment for serious mental illness.
She will now return as the agency's top official.
The assistant secretary for mental health post was created as part of the 21st Century Cures legislation. It was designed to give the mental health agency a seat at the table at HHS and elevate behavioral health issues amid a nationwide opioid epidemic, and record high suicide rates.
Katz has support from mental health advocacy groups focused on treatment, including the American Psychiatric Association, the Treatment Advocacy Center and the LEAP Institutes.
She has advocated for expanding assisted outpatient treatment programs, or community-based court-ordered treatment, which some groups consider a violation of patients' rights. She has credited Obamacare and the law's Medicaid expansion as solutions to address barriers to mental health and substance abuse treatment
She also supports increasing access to inpatient psychiatric treatment facilities and expanding the behavioral health care workforce — efforts that will likely require significant new resources.
However, the Trump administration's 2018 budget proposal cuts roughly $100 million from the Community Mental Health Services block grant, an vital source of mental health funding for programs nationwide.
The Senate also confirmed Jerome Adams for surgeon general, Lance Allen Robertson for assistant secretary for aging, and Robert Kadlec for the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, among others.