Elinore McCance-Katz has been nominated to serve as the HHS' first assistant secretary for mental health and substance abuse.
The position was created through the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act last November. McCance-Katz's nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.
McCance-Katz was previously the chief medical director for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
After she departed from SAMHSA in 2015, 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. "Rather, the unit within SAMHSA charged with addressing these disorders, the Center for Mental Health Services, chooses to focus on its own definition of 'recovery,' which generally ignores the treatment of mental disorders, and, as a major initiative under 'recovery' services, focuses on the development of a 'peer workforce.'"
McCance-Katz is currently the chief medical officer for Rhode Island's Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.
Throughout her career McCance-Katz has conducted extensive research on substance abuse including opioid addiction.
If she is confirmed, McCance-Katz will authorize grants for community treatment teams; assist outpatient treatment for noncooperative patients; and create a path to allow Medicaid managed-care plans to pay for short-term inpatient stays.