WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), co-author of the Mental Health Reform Act and a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, issued a statement on Monday on the nomination of Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz to be Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Dr. McCance-Katz is the first ever nominee for the position, which was created by mental health reforms championed by Murphy and signed into law by President Obama in December 2016. Murphy and U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) included the new Assistant Secretary position in their Mental Health Reform Act, as did Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) in his Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.

“People in Connecticut know how disruptive and damaging untreated mental illness and addiction can be. For the first time ever, a medical professional who is laser focused on addiction and mental health will be in the top echelon of HHS. We created this position to elevate these important issues and improve coordination so that people coping with a mental illness or substance use disorder can access the care and treatment they need,” said Murphy. “I congratulate Dr. McCance-Katz on her nomination to be the Assistant Secretary, and if she’s confirmed, I’ll look forward to working with her on implementing the Mental Health Reform Act.”

Among other things, the comprehensive Mental Health Reform Act strengthened enforcement of mental health parity laws, promoted integrated mental health and physical health, and established new programs to assist those with, or at risk for, mental illness. A fact sheet on Murphy and Cassidy’s bill is available here.

Dr. McCance-Katz attended Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She earned her doctorate degree Yale University School of Medicine, where she later worked as an assistant and associate professor of psychiatry. She is currently the chief medical officer for the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals, and a professor at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University.