As SAMHSA’s Chief of Staff, Sonia Chessen oversees daily operations and provides executive leadership across the agency to help advance the SAMHSA mission. Prior to joining SAMHSA, Ms. Chessen served on the Biden Harris Transition Team. She came to the Biden administration having spent four years building a consulting practice aimed at helping organizations better articulate their short and long-term goals and align their greatest resource, their people, to best to achieve their mission.
From 2007-2016, Ms. Chessen was at the Pew Charitable Trusts first as Deputy Director of the Pew Health Group and then as Chief of Staff. She oversaw the development and implementation of a five-year strategy to improve Americans’ health and wellbeing in areas of financial security, drug and food safety, and consumer product safety, entitled “Protecting Americans from Hidden Risks.” Pew invested $40,000,000 in the Hidden Risk strategy, which contributed to more transparent credit card practices, food safety legislation and better practices to reduce antibiotic resistance.
Previous to her tenure at Pew, Ms. Chessen spent seven years at HHS in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation where she was responsible for the adolescent health portfolio. During that time, she was detailed to the White House twice to oversee interagency efforts aimed at reducing youth risk-taking behaviors and promoting youth development. Ms. Chessen began her career as the Director of Social Service for a youth-serving agency in the Cabrini Green housing development in Chicago. This is where she first fell in love with adolescents, was energized by their resilience in the face of extraordinary challenges and drew her lifetime commitment to working on improving health and economic outcomes.
Ms. Chessen has an Arts Masters in Social Service Administration from University of Chicago and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Wellesley College.