On Friday, April 21st, Trump’s nominee for the ‘Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use in the Department of Health and Human Services’ was announced: Elinore McCance-Katz. The position McCance-Katz would be filling is a new one, created by the version of Tim Murphy’s ‘Helping Families in Crisis’ act (also known as the ‘Murphy Bill’) that got slipped in and approved with the ‘21st Century Cures’ act a few months back. This position would essentially put her in charge of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration known more commonly as ‘SAMHSA’.
Some of her stated priorities include:
- Increase the number of inpatient psychiatric beds
- Reconfigure health privacy laws to give families access to information about individuals deemed ‘severely mentally ill’
- Reevaluate federal funding for suicide hotlines and peer support
McCance-Katz, who previously served as the Chief Medical Officer at SAMHSA, has spoken out openly in favor of measures like <b>Involuntary Outpatient Commitment</b> (also known as ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ or AOT, basically boiling down to force, including forced drugging that can even occur in people’s own homes).
She has also opposed many criticisms of psychiatric drugs, even in the face of a growing scientific body of evidence that their efficacy (and potentially damaging effects) are well worth being questioned. She even comes with the strong recommendation of DJ Jaffee, founder of mentalillnesspolicy.org and enemy to all things peer-support-related.
Interestingly, Murphy has spoken out against</I> McCance-Katz’s nomination. And, as much as we’d like to agree with Murphy that she’s not ‘the one’, Murphy only has even more damaging recommendations waiting in the wings. Fortunately, the Western Mass RLC is not funded through SAMHSA or federal funds, but it does appear that dark times loom ahead for SAMHSA, and it’s likely to trickle down to us one way or another.
Involuntary Outpatient Commitment in Massachusetts? Reduction of access to peer supports (or threats to the integrity of these important roles)? Budget cuts for some of the country’s most innovative efforts?All of it could be headed our way.
Stay tuned for more updates as this all develops, and check out this blog by David Oaks for more details while you wait: Trump Appoints Leader Who Campaigned for Involuntary Outpatient Drugging
Or read ‘Trumps Pick to Run Mental Health is Poised to Shake Things Up‘ by Meghana Keshavan.