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Department of Behavioral Health Establishment Planning Committee

Welcome to the Department of Behavioral Health Establishment Planning Committee home page.
On January 11, 2013, Mayor Gray announced the establishment of a new Department of Behavioral Health to improve the health and well-being of residents who receive mental health and substance abuse treatment and supports. This home page was created as a tool to solicit comments from our partners and to keep them and the public informed of our progress.

The new department will combine the Department of Mental Health (DMH) and the Addiction Prevention Recovery Administration (APRA) now in the Department of Health, effective October 1, 2013. Mayor Gray included the budget for the new Department in the FY 14 Budget (B20-0198) and established the new Department in the FY 14 Budget Support Act adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia.

Update:  The Mayor has appointed Steve Baron, now DMH Director, as the Acting Director and submitted a resolution confirming his appointment to the Council of the District of Columbia. The Council Committee on Health has scheduled a public hearing on his confirmation at 11 am, Thursday, October 11, in the Council Chamber, John A. Wilson Building.

Director Baron sent a letter to all DMH and APRA providers to emphasize that there should be no interruption in services to consumers and clients on October 1 due to the merger. The new Department will schedule meetings with consumers and clients in the fall to talk about the merger and to seek their suggestions on access, service delivery and integrated services. A survey also will be conducted.  A flyer for distribution to consumers and clients is available.

Director Baron outlined next steps in the process to build an infrastructure that supports high quality integrated service delivery and specialized services to those with mental or substance use disorders only. While some providers currently are certified to provide both mental health rehabilitation services and substance use disorder treatment, a provider will not be required to have dual certification. The rules and enforcement authority for mental health and substance use services were transferred to the new Department and remain in effect.  


Steve Baron presented the Mayor’s vision of how the new Department of Behavioral Health will support a healthier community during the Council Committee on Health public budget hearing on April 18, 2013.  

Mayor’s FY 14 Budget Support Act (Act 20-157, Title V, Subtitle K)
Mayor’s FY 14 Budget for the Department of Behavioral Health

The new Department of Behavioral Health will integrate treatment and services for residents with both mental health and substance use disorders. The new Department will continue to provide treatment and supports for individuals with mental health conditions only or substance use disorders only. Providers will be trained to assess for both illnesses in order to offer proper treatment.

The Department of Behavioral Health will be established with input and guidance from a Planning Committee led by Stephen T. Baron, Director of DMH who will become the head of the new Department. The Planning Committee defined its membership and functions in a Charter [PDF] and adopted Guiding Principles [PDF]. The Planning Committee implementation process will ensure the active participation of community service providers and residents who receive services from either DMH and APRA and their families. The Planning Committee developed a work plan and schedule that outlines activities that must take place to stand up the new Department on October 1 as well as ongoing activities to build an infrastructure that supports integrated services.We encourage you to email your comments and suggestions regarding your areas of interest to a member of the Planning Committee listed below. Or, you can send comments or questions directly to Steve Baron at Ask the Director. The Planning Committee also will post frequently asked questions, regular reports and notice of any public meetings.  

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1.  Why are you making this change?

A1.  A significant number of residents have mental health and substance use disorders at the same time. Treatment and supports currently are delivered separately which requires people seeking help for both illnesses to navigate two separate agencies. Without integrated treatment, one or both disorders might not be addressed properly. The new integrated system effectively will serve individuals with co-occurring disorders whether they are seeking help for substance use disorders or mental health conditions.

Between DMH and APRA, 86 providers treat 35,000 residents for one or the other disorder with a small number serving both. We want to make sure all providers are competent to assess for both mental health and substance use disorders at the same time so we can design the proper treatment.  

In addition, through the establishment of the new department, we hope to focus public awareness and policy attention on the role of behavioral health by engaging all areas of our community— elected officials, advocates, health professionals, researchers and those directly affected by mental illness/addiction and their families. The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that by 2020, mental and substance use disorders will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide. We know that treatment is effective and recovery is possible. We are putting a system in place that best supports healthy individuals and a strong community.

Q2.  Will this change make services better?

A2.  As we learn more about how to support individual recovery and resiliency, research shows that treating both illnesses jointly, rather than separately, is shown to improve client outcomes. 

  • Mental illnesses and addictions are both biological brain disorders with genetic and/or neurobiological factors.
  • Denial and stigma are common barriers to getting treatment.
  • Clients will benefit from specific expertise in prevention, assessment, treatment, and knowledge of best practices by clinicians who specialize in substance abuse and/or mental illness, even without a dual diagnosis.

According to SAMHSA, integrated treatment that addresses both mental and substance use conditions at the same time leads to lower costs and better outcomes such as:

  • Reduced substance use
  • Improved psychiatric symptoms and functioning
  • Decreased hospitalization
  • Increased housing stability
  • Fewer arrests
  • Improved quality of life

On the other hand, the consequences of undiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated co-occurring mental and substance use disorders are severe. Studies show that compared to individuals without co-occurring disorders, people with co-occurring disorders were more likely to be:

  • Hospitalized
  • Homeless
  • Incarcerated, or
  • Infected with HIV, hepatitis, and other diseases.

Effectively serving individuals with mental health and substance use disorders means early detection and integrated services that are individualized and responsive to all conditions. 

Q3.  What if I need only mental health support? Can I still get help?

A3.  Yes. You will still get treatment and support from the new Department of Behavior Health. Treatment and services will fit the individual need. 

Q4.  What if I need support only for substance use disorders? 

A4.  You will still get treatment and support from the new Department of Behavior Health. Some providers may only offer treatment and supports for substance use disorders but they will be trained to assess for both to make sure treatment offered is comprehensive. 

Planning Committee Membership

Name Affiliation Title
Beatriz ‘BB’ Otero
[email protected]
EOM Deputy Mayor
Steve Baron
[email protected]
DMH Director
Barbara J. Bazron
[email protected]
DMH Senior Deputy Director
Frances Buckson
[email protected]
DOH Interim Senior Deputy Director, APRA
Phyllis Jones
[email protected]
DMH Chief of Staff
Colette Chichester
[email protected]
DOH Chief of Staff
Michael Neff
[email protected]
DMH Chief, Administrative Services
Mark Lassiter
[email protected]
DOH Deputy Director of Operations, APRA
Ryan Springer
[email protected]
DOH Deputy Director, APRA
Dr. Cameron Ritchie
[email protected]
DMH Chief Clinical Officer
Javon Oliver
[email protected]
DOH Deputy Director for Treatment, APRA
Keith Fletcher
[email protected]
DOH Agency Fiscal Officer
Joyce Jeter
[email protected]
DMH Agency Fiscal Officer
Philip Husband
[email protected]
DOH General Counsel
Matt Caspari
[email protected]
DMH General Counsel
Atiya Frame
[email protected]
DMH Deputy Director, Office of Accountability
Todd Menhinick
[email protected]
DOH Chief of Quality Assurance, APRA
Suzanne Fenzel
[email protected]
DMH Deputy Director, Office of Strategic Planning
Frankie Wheeler
[email protected]
DMH Director, Human Resources
Maureen Dimino [email protected] DOH Chief of Policy and Planning, APRA
Arturo Weldon
[email protected]
DOH Chief Technology Officer, DOH