Pennsylvania mental health advocates say they are excited about Gov. Tom Wolf’s pick for Physician General.
Rachel Levine is a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, and has long held an interest in the intersection of physical and mental health.
In her new role, Rachel Levine will advise Wolf on health policies for the Commonwealth. Longtime mental health advocate Joseph Rogers of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania says Levine’s background likely means she’ll be more receptive to issues affecting people with mental illnesses. “When you are able to sit down with somebody and it’s not a matter of learning vocabulary and learning basic understanding, you can hit the ground running, so to speak,” said Rogers.
Other advocates say Levine’s interest in both mental and physical health could mean better integrated care in Pennsylvania.
“So she could potentially work with the office for mental health and substance abuse services, for example,” said Mark Salzer who heads Temple University’s department of rehabilitation sciences. “She could encourage a greater attention to physical health care issues that people who receive services in that office from the state receive.” He added that along those same lines, Levine could push for mental health services in the state’s health clinics.
Levine is a transgender woman, who has also advocated for health care issues affecting LGBT communities.