DC Department of Mental Health (DMH) Director Stephen T. Baron presented the agency’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2012 at a recent public hearing held by the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Health.
Mr. Baron’s testimony describes the range of mental health services and supports available to residents of all ages from emergency treatment to ongoing care. It also highlights the work that DMH is doing to take advantage of federal funds, identify new revenue sources, and maximize efficiencies to ensure that residents continue to receive the mental health services they need.
“As we work together to address the District’s fiscal challenges as One City, the proposed budget for DMH reflects Mayor Gray’s commitment to maintaining funding for individuals with the most severe mental illness,” said Mr. Baron. “Basic mental health treatment —counseling, time with a psychiatrist, medications, and support for individuals in our most intensive services program—are unchanged in the proposed budget.” The proposed budget also includes resources to continue to strengthen auditing and claims review in the Office of Accountability to make sure that every dollar is properly spent.
In his testimony, Mr. Baron said that the Mayor’s Live Well DC! initiative led by the Department of Health is consistent with DMH’s focus to promote better physical health of mental health consumers and to monitor the side effects of necessary psychotropic medications on their overall health. The initiative is critical to the population served by DMH. Adults with serious mental illness treated in public systems die 25 years earlier than Americans overall. Further, African Americans and other racial minorities who make up the majority of the DMH consumers are more likely to suffer from a serious chronic illness like diabetes or heart disease.
Prior to the public hearing, DMH sought opportunities to engage in discussions with community members about the budget to hear their perspectives and to solicit ideas about priorities and possible savings. DMH has met with mental health consumers, private mental health providers, and mental health advocates, and is committed to working with them and other interested community members on how best to ensure high quality services and to safeguard the stability of the mental health provider network.
Read Mr. Baron’s complete testimony on the DMH website.