US Senator Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) released a statement congratulating Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz on her confirmation as the first Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the Department of Health and Human Services. This position was created by legislation introduced by Cassidy and US Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)—The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016—which passed into law as part of the 21st Century Cures Act.
“The confirmation of Dr. McCance-Katz is one more step in fixing our broken mental health system,” said Dr. Cassidy. “I look forward to working with Dr. McCance-Katz towards better care for the mentally ill.”
The Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse will be responsible for overseeing grants and promoting best practices. The assistant secretary will work with other federal agencies and key stakeholders to coordinate mental health services across the federal system and help them to identify and implement effective and promising models of care.
Dr. Cassidy’s legislation signed into law established other mental health reforms:
- Integrates Physical and Mental Health:
Encourages states to break down walls between physical and mental health care systems by requiring them to identify barriers to integration. States will be eligible for grants to promote integration between primary and behavioral health care for individuals with mental illness along with co-occurring physical health conditions.
- Strengthens Transparency and Enforcement of Mental Health Parity:
Strengthens the enforcement of existing mental health parity protections to ensure that physical and mental health are covered equally by insurers. It requires federal agencies to report on enforcement actions related to the mental health parity law and establishes an enforcement “action plan” informed by key stakeholders. It also requires the government to audit a health plan if it is found to have violated existing mental health parity laws.
- Establishes New Programs for Early Intervention and Improves Access to Mental Health Care for Children:
Establishes a grant program focused on intensive early intervention for infants and young children who are at risk of developing or are showing signs of mental illness. A second grant program supports pediatrician consultation with mental health teams, which has seen great success in states like Massachusetts and Connecticut. It also ensures that children covered by Medicaid have access to the full range of early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment services.
- Strengthens Suicide Prevention:
Continues the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline program, and provides information and training for suicide prevention, surveillance, and intervention strategies. It reauthorizes Youth Suicide Early Intervention and Prevention Strategies grants to states and tribes, and establishes suicide prevention and intervention program grants for adults.
- Establishes New National Mental Health Policy Laboratory:
Establishes a new entity to fund innovation grants that identify new and effective models of care, and demonstration grants to bring effective models to scale for adults and children.
- Reauthorizes Successful Grant Programs:
Reauthorizes key programs like the Community Mental Health Block Grants and state-based data collection. It modernizes the mental health and substance use disorder block grants, streamlines the application process, and promotes the use of evidence-based practices within states. It continues grants to states and communities to help train teachers, emergency services personnel and others to recognize signs and symptoms of mental illness. Additionally, it reauthorizes grants to train mental health providers such as psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and paraprofessionals.
- Develops New Educational Materials on Privacy Protections:
Requires HHS to develop educational materials to help patients, clinicians and family members understand when personal health information can be shared to clear up confusion.