Anita Everett, MD, was named the chief medical officer of SAMHSA on Wednesday and will begin serving on September 5. The role typically includes offering input from a clinical psychiatric perspective for the development and execution of programs and acting as a liaison with other federal agencies.
A psychiatrist, Everett is currently the president-elect of the American Psychiatric Assn. (APA) and will continue to serve that role while working for SAMHSA. It’s unclear whether she will continue in her other roles as a division director of Johns Hopkins Community and General Psychiatry and an associate professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Her appointment was applauded by APA, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Council for Behavioral Health. Everett has been called a grassroots clinician and a prominent leader who has earned respect and credibility.
At the same time, SAMHSA has also created a new branch within the agency, the Office of the Chief Medical Officer, where Everett will serve and lead a staff of five. It’s significant as SAMHSA has been the subject of criticism by some lawmakers who believe it has not had sufficient clinical leadership or financial accountability.
In fact, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646), which passed through the House Energy and Commerce Committee in June, calls for a new assistant secretary within the federal Department of Health and Human Services who would absorb the duties of the SAMHSA administrator. The assistant secretary proposal has been met with mixed response from behavioral healthcare industry leaders.
Everett replaces Elinore McCance-Katz, MD, PhD, a psychiatrist with a subspecialty in addiction psychiatry, who was appointed in 2013.