1978 Eastern Graduate Named to Major National Mental Health Post

McCance-KatzElinore McCance-Katz, M.D., Ph.D., a 1978 graduate of Eastern Connecticut State University, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 3 as the first Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use in the U.S. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, helped create the new position as part of the Mental Health Reform Act that he co-sponsored with U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

“Every one of us has a family member or friend coping with mental illness or addiction. We created this position because after listening to families in Connecticut, I heard loud and clear that the government needs to do a better job addressing these issues for the people who need it. Dr. McCance-Katz has a big job ahead of her,” said Murphy. “She’s experienced and I’m confident she’ll bring much-needed focus and attention to making sure people with mental health needs and addiction get the care they need. I look forward to working her.”

McCance-Katz majored in biology and graduated magna cum laude from Eastern in 1978.  Prior to her new appointment, she was 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. She previously served as the first chief medical officer for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

After receiving her bachelor’s degree at Eastern, she obtained her Ph.D. from Yale University with a specialty in infectious disease epidemiology. McCance-Katz is also a graduate of the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine and board certified in general psychiatry and addiction psychiatry. She is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry with more than 25 years of experience as a clinician, teacher and clinical researcher.

Following her graduation from UConn, McCance-Katz did her residency in psychiatry at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living. Her career in academia included a seven-year stint as a professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. She has conducted substantial research in the area of substance abuse and addiction, specifically opioid addiction.

“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,” said Murphy. “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.”

McCance-Katz’s confirmation has been applauded by such groups as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychiatric Association.