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 Organization

The District of Columbia Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) announced a major realignment to better support integrated mental health and substance use disorder treatment effective October 1, 2017.  DBH is organized into administrations which are divided into divisions—which may be further divided into branches—and Saint Elizabeths Hospital:

Oversees provider certification, mental health community residence facility licensure, program integrity, quality improvement, claims audits and compliance monitoring. 

Performs business functions, including administrative support, budget and financial management, human resource management, property and space management, and records management. 

Includes all clinical staff, the 24-hour Access Helpline, the Assessment and Referral Center,  the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP), and DBH operated adult and children outpatient clinics.

Combines mental health services and substance use disorder services to enhance integrated treatment; replaces the Alcohol Prevention and Recovery Administration and Behavioral Health Services and Supports.  

Amplifies consumer and client voice and promotes consumer and client leadership; includes all consumer and family services, the peer certification training program, and recovery services.   

Combines management and support functions in mental health and substance use disorder areas and reduces duplicative functions;  includes information systems and data analytics, policy development, Provider Network, and the Training Institute. 

Saint Elizabeths Hospital, the District’s psychiatric facility, provides person-centered inpatient care.