I’m Honored To Be Named To Federal Committee Advising Congress About Mental Health And Substance Issues: 14 Public Members

I am joining Elyn Saks on federal committee

I am delighted to be joining Elyn Saks and other advocates on federal committee

(8-17-17) I am deeply honored and excited about being named yesterday by the Department of Health and Human Services to a special committee created by Congress to help oversee reform of our federal mental health care system.

I wish to thank U.S. Senator John Cornyn, (R-Tx.), Virginia state Senator Creigh Deeds (D.), and Miami Dade Judge Steven Leifman for recommending me to HHS Secretary Tom Price.

Rep. Tim Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act first cited the need for an oversight panel that would report to Congress and include 14 public members, including at least one parent. I am thrilled to have been chosen for that slot, although several other members of the group also either have or are related to individuals with mental illnesses and addictions. (The required composition is listed at the end of this post.)

A compromised version of the Pennsylvania Republican’s Mental Health Crisis bill was signed into law during the final days  of the Obama administration creating both a new Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse and an Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC).

The committee is composed of senior leaders from ten federal agencies including HHS, the Departments of Justice, Labor, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Labor and the Social Security administration along with the 14 non-federal members who were selected from more than 200 applicants. The other 13 members chosen for the committee include many familiar names:

  • Linda S. Beeber, Ph.D., PMHCNS-BC, FAAN, Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, School of Nursing;
  • Ron Bruno, Founding Board Member and Second Vice President, CIT International;
  • Clayton Chau,  M.D., Ph.D., Regional Executive Medical Director, Institute for Mental Health and Wellness at St. Joseph-Hoag Health;
  • David Covington, LPC, MBA, CEO/President, RI International;
  • Maryann Davis, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical Center;
  • Paul Emrich, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Family and Mental Health Chickasaw Nation;
  • Mary Giliberti, J.D., Chief Executive Officer, National Alliance for Mental Illness, National Alliance on Mental Illness;
  • Elena Kravitz, Peer Support Provider and Manager, Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey;
  • Kenneth Minkoff, M.D., Zia Partners;
  • Elyn Saks, J.D., Ph.D., Professor of Law, Legal Scholar, University of Southern California Gould School of Law;
  • John Snook, Esq., Executive Director/Attorney, Treatment Advocacy Center;
  • Rhathelia Stroud, J.D., Presiding Judge, DeKalb County Magistrate Court; and
  • Conni Wells, Owner/Manager, Axis Group, LLC.

Obviously, regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Elyn Saks, author of the fabulous book, The Center Cannot Hold; NAMI’s CEO Mary Giliberti, and John Snook from the Treatment Advocacy Center.

The appointments are for three years and the group is tasked with:

Reporting advances in research on serious mental illness among adults and serious emotional disturbance among children and on federal outcomes related to measures of suicide, drug overdoses, emergency hospitalizations, criminal justice involvement, homelessness, unemployment, and other issues.  The ISMICC also will recommend actions that federal agencies can take to better coordinate the administration of mental health services for adults with serious mental illness and children with serious emotional disturbance.

Eight federal agencies oversee 112 programs related to mental illness and substance abuse.

Nearly every president in recent times has appointed some sort of blue ribbon panel to investigate mental illness and substance abuse. But this is the first permanent committee whose job will be to report to Congress about how federal agencies are doing.

The first meeting will be held on August 31, 2017, at the Hubert H. Humphrey Building in Washington DC. Public access to the meeting will available by webcast (http://www.hhs.gov/live) and phone (see the link on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website for instructions).

The press release announcing the appointments can be read here.

In the coming three years, I will welcome hearing directly from you about how the federal government can better serve individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse issues, especially from a parents’ viewpoint.

I am eager to get to work!

Required composition of committee:

Federal Membership:

The ISMICC will be composed of the following federal members or their designees: • The HHS Secretary; • The Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use; • The Attorney General; • The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs; • The Secretary of the Department of Defense; • The Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; • The Secretary of the Department of Education; • The Secretary of the Department of Labor; • The Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and • The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

Non-federal Membership:

The ISMICC shall also include not less than 14 non-federal public members appointed by the Secretary of which: • At least two individuals who have received treatment for a diagnosis of a SMI; • A parent or legal guardian of an adult with a history of SMI or a child with a history of SED; • A representative of a leading research, advocacy, or service organization for adults with SMI; • At least two members who are one of the following:  A licensed psychiatrist with experience treating SMI; A licensed psychologist with experience in treating SMI or SED;  A licensed clinical social worker with experience treating SMIs or SEDs; or A licensed psychiatric nurse, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant with experience in treating SMIs or SEDs. • A licensed mental health professional with a specialty in treating children and adolescents with a SED; • A mental health professional who has research or clinical mental health experience in working with minorities; • A mental health professional who has research or clinical mental health experience in working with medically underserved populations; • A state certified mental health peer support specialist; • A judge with experience in adjudicating cases related to criminal justice or SMI; 4 • A law enforcement officer or corrections officer with extensive experience in interfacing with adults with a SMI, children with SED, or individuals in a mental health crisis; and • An individual with experience providing services for homeless individuals and working with adults with SMI, children with a SED, or individuals in a mental health crisis. 


About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.