President Trump announced last Friday that he intends to nominate McCance-Katz, an APA member psychiatrist, to the position. It would be a win for APA, which had been advocating for McCance-Katz’s selection in discussions with the White House. Staff of APA’s Division of Government Relations told Psychiatric News that McCance-Katz brought to the table the skills and experience that the White House—and APA—hoped to see in the position: a strong scientific and medical background with a focus on substance use and experience working at the federal level.
If confirmed, McCance-Katz would be the first Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and will replace Kana Enomoto, the Acting Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services. At press time, it was anticipated that the Senate hearing on McCance-Katz’s nomination would take place within the next couple of months. APA members are urged to contact their senators to support her nomination.
“Dr. McCance-Katz has a wealth of experience in academic and public sector settings in addressing mental health and substance use disorders,” said APA President Maria A. Oquendo, M.D., Ph.D. “She is an accomplished physician, and APA strongly supports her nomination.”
The assistant secretary post was created in the 21st Century Cures Act, a bipartisan bill that passed late last year. The Assistant Secretary is charged with overseeing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health and Services Administration (SAMHSA) and coordinating mental health and substance use programs at other agencies across the federal government. McCance-Katz served in SAMHSA as the first chief medical officer of the agency; her experience there will pay off in her new role, said APA leaders.
“We urge the Senate to confirm Dr. McCance-Katz as soon as possible,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “We look forward to working with her to improve the quality of care of mental health and substance use disorders.”
In a letter delivered today to Senate leaders, Levin and Oquendo emphasized the strengths McCance-Katz would bring to the new position. “To overcome the pervasive opioid addiction in our country, we need a strong leader who can lead the collaboration between primary care and mental health to drive the nation’s recovery,” they wrote. “Dr. McCance-Katz is preeminently qualified to carry out the important responsibilities that need to be undertaken by the Assistant Secretary.”
McCance-Katz is currently the chief medical officer for the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals. She is also a professor of psychiatry and human behavior and professor of behavioral and social sciences at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University.