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Statement from the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use

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I have chosen to resign today as the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. I am, and will be, forever grateful to have had the opportunity to lead SAMHSA and to contribute to improving prevention, treatment and recovery resources to those with mental and substance use disorders and their families. I have traveled our nation extensively over the last nearly 4 years and have been honored to be able to see Americans helping Americans—caring for those who suffer with these illnesses. I want to express my gratitude to all SAMHSA staff and to my colleagues in the Department of Health and Human Services for their support and sharing of their expertise with the common goal of meeting the mental health needs of our nation. It had been my plan to stay until the change in administration occurred, but my plans abruptly changed last evening when, on my way back from visiting an excellent residential treatment program in New York, I saw the violent takeover of the Capitol building. I believe that this behavior was totally unacceptable and, in my own heart, I simply am not able to continue. I believe that we are given certain life situations where we must make the difficult decisions and we get one chance to do it the right way. Because I believe that the mental health of our people has suffered so greatly under the stresses of COVID-19, the social justice issues that have been so painful for so many, and now with the rending of our nation over questions raised about the presidential election, I cannot support language that results in incitement of violence and risks our very existence. I very much hope that we will all take a step back and work through this painful time together—listening to each other, respecting each other, and bringing us together again as the great nation we are.

I want to thank all for your help and support of the mission of SAMHSA over these last few years. I firmly believe that we can, with a united national will, meet the needs of those living with mental and substance use disorders—some of the most vulnerable among us. In doing so, we elevate our society and our nation.

Elinore F. McCance-Katz, MD, PhD


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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to lead public health and service delivery efforts that promote mental health, prevent substance misuse, and provide treatments and supports to foster recovery while ensuring equitable access and better outcomes.

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