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Department of Behavioral Health

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About DBH

The Department of Behavioral Health provides prevention, intervention and treatment services  and supports for children, youth and adults with mental and/or substance use disorders including emergency psychiatric care and community-based outpatient and residential services.

DBH serves eligible adults, children and youth and their families through a network of community based providers and unique government delivered services. It operates Saint Elizabeths Hospital—the District’s inpatient psychiatric facility.


The District of Columbia is a thriving community where prevention is possible and recovery from mental health and substance use disorders is the expectation.


The mission of DBH is to develop, manage and oversee a public behavioral health system for adults, children and youth and their families that is consumer driven, community based, culturally competent and supports prevention, resiliency and recovery and the overall well being of the District of Columbia.


The Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) embraces these values:

Respect. All persons who come in contact with the public behavioral health care system are treated with dignity and valued for their abilities and contributions.

Accountability. DBH is responsible to consumers and family members for support and unobstructed access to services. The agency encourages all interested parties to participate in the planning, development, implementation and monitoring of treatment, services, and policy.

Recovery. DBH services are provided based on the belief that people can recover from mental and substance use disorders.   Services and support for consumers, clients, and their families are tailored to:

  • Empower them to improve their quality of life
  • Address individual needs
  • Focus on strengths and resiliency
  • Provide choices and immediate access
  • Provide opportunities to participate in rehabilitation, regardless of disability

Quality. The system is responsive, cost-effective, and incorporates high standards, best practices, cultural sensitivity and consumer satisfaction. Service providers are committed to professional integrity, objectivity, fairness and ethical business practices.

Education. DBH takes the following actions to improve the service delivery system:

  • Shares information among consumers, family members, providers and the public
  • Promotes prevention, wellness, and recovery
  • Reduces stigma
  • Recognizes the needs of others for information
  • Communicates in an open and candid manner

Caring. DBH encourages genuine partnerships among consumers and clients, family members, providers, and others that foster an unconditional positive regard for the concerns of those who seek and receive services.

Our Strategic Plan

The Department of Behavioral Health is leading the District’s work to ensure residents have access to high-quality, behavioral health services and the opportunity to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. The Department of Behavioral Health's Strategic Plan represents months of engagement with providers, consumers, clients, employees, and other partners to improve behavioral health care for all residents. The Strategic Plan promotes a shared vision for a recovery-oriented, integrated behavioral health care system that advances health equity with strategies for achieving system outcomes as well as population health improvements. It promotes parity with physical health care and aligns with the DC Healthy People 2020 Framework which ranks mental health and substance use disorders among the leading health indicators.

Work is well underway to implement the Strategic Plan with achievements in expanding behavioral health services to all public schools, making easier access to substance use disorder treatment services, and increasing our resources for individual psychiatric crisis and public emergencies. The new 1115 Behavioral Health Transformation Demonstration Project brings additional Medicaid funding for inpatient care, recovery support, and peer services. The Strategic Plan outlines actions over the next three years to achieve our vision and inspire actions across the behavioral health system that foster recovery and resiliency. It serves as our guidepost to ensure that our efforts are coordinated, sustained, and accountable.