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Pamela Hyde steps down from top SAMHSA post


 

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ROCKVILLE, MD. – Pamela S. Hyde has announced she is stepping down as administrator of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, effective Aug. 22.

In a blogpost dated Aug. 4, Ms. Hyde stated that “personal issues call me home to New Mexico.”

An internal memo from U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell praised Ms. Hyde for her “remarkable” commitment, calling her a “steadfast leader who has “worked to integrate behavioral health into all of HHS’ coverage, prevention, treatment, and human services programs.”

Ms. Hyde will be replaced at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the interim by Principal Deputy Administrator Kana Enomoto.

The announcement comes amid a time when, driven in part by the alarming incarceration rates of those with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, mental illness is a nascent concern, with no less than six major proposed legislative actions being debated currently in Congress.

Since the beginning of Ms. Hyde’s tenure in November 2009, SAMHSA has come under increasing fire from some in the mental health field including the Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist who has complained in the National Review and elsewhere that the agency focuses more on mental wellness than mental illness.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Penn.), a clinical psychologist, also has publicly criticized SAMHSA for what he has characterized as SAMHSA’s lack of an evidence-based approach to dealing with mental health issues. In an interview earlier this year, Rep. Murphy accused SAMHSA of being “antipsychiatry” and operating from a “feel-good space.” Rep. Murphy, who has introduced legislation that would restructure the agency, said in that interview that his bill “drives the science on serious mental illness, because right now there is no science at SAMSHA.”

His bill also would require that the top leadership be held by a person with either a medical degree or an advanced degree in clinical psychology. Ms. Hyde is a lawyer by training. Ms. Enomoto holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology.

Asked whether the timing of Ms. Hyde’s resignation was related to the heightened level of criticism she has faced, a SAMHSA spokesperson reiterated that Ms. Hyde’s decision was “for personal reasons.”

wmcknight@frontlinemedcom.com

On Twitter @whitneymcknight

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