(Washington, DC) Today, as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) Director Dr. Barbara J. Bazron, Ph.D. highlighted the District’s Mental Health Hotline and encouraged residents to take advantage of the programs and resources available to support mental health.
“We want residents to think about taking care of their mental health the same way they think about going to the doctor for a physical or to the dentist to deal with tooth pain – it’s necessary and normal,” said Mayor Bowser. “As Washingtonians deal with a range of issues – whether that’s daily stressors or ongoing mental health disorders, we want residents to know that the Mental Health Hotline is available 24/7 and that it is free. If you need someone to talk to or you need help getting connected to mental health care, trained professionals will help you.”
The Mental Health Hotline was set up to provide counseling and support to residents experiencing increased anxiety and stress due to COVID-19 and has expanded to offer support to address post-pandemic and everyday stressors for individualized support.
Residents are encouraged to contact the Mental Health Hotline at 1(888) 793-4357 (1(888) 7WE-HELP) to talk with a trained mental health specialist if they’re feeling depressed, anxious, or just not themselves. Anyone who needs mental health support can get real-time help without enrollment in DBH. The Hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
On the Mental Health Hotline, callers can speak confidentially with a trained mental health specialist who provides counseling, help with problem solving, and referral to ongoing treatment if needed through a robust community-based provider network. The hotline is staffed by experienced professionals who can also help prevent negative coping strategies such as self-harm or self-medication with drugs or alcohol.
“The Mental Health Hotline gives people the support they need when they need it with just a telephone call, at no cost,” said Dr. Bazron. “We’re here to listen and respond to mental health challenges before they reach a crisis.”
Studies show that people often turned to alcohol, opioids, and other drugs to help them cope with the pandemic. For people already with mental illness, opioid addiction, or other substance use disorders, pandemic-related disruptions in treatment regimes, social networks, and daily routines challenge their recovery. Gun violence and safety concerns can place additional stress on communities.
Through multi-year investments, Mayor Bowser has funded the placement of a clinician in every public school. Behavioral health clinicians from the Department of Behavioral Health or contracted community-based organizations are now in 158 or 63 percent of public schools, and we continue to expand in partnership with the DC Public Schools and the DC Public Charter School Board.
The Mayor’s FY23 Budget proposes $129.6 million for mental health services and supports that are available in public schools, at home, and in the community. The budget also includes a $104 million investment to provide inpatient care at Saint Elizabeths Hospital.