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New Department of Behavioral Health

Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Integrates treatment for mental health and substance use disorders

Washington, DC—Today is the first day of the newly established District of Columbia Department of Behavioral Health combining treatment and support for residents with mental and/or substance use disorders. The new Department merges the former Department of Mental Health and the Addiction Prevention Recovery Administration. The addresses and telephone numbers for all services remain the same.

“ We want to emphasize that there should be no interruption in services due to the merger,” said Stephen T. Baron, Acting Director of the new Department of Behavioral Health. The new Department presents a greater opportunity to coordinate care to improve the quality of life for thousands of residents.”  Mayor Vincent C. Gray established the new Department in the FY 14 Budget Support Act approved by the Council of the District of Columbia.

More than 30,000 District residents are receiving treatment for mental or substance use disorders from about 60 certified community-based providers. A significant number have both mental health and substance abuse disorders at the same time. Research shows that integrated treatment leads to reduced substance use, improved psychiatric symptoms and functioning, decreased hospitalization and overall improved quality of life.

Without integrated treatment, one or both disorders may not be addressed properly.  The new Department of Behavioral Health will assess individuals for both disorders whether they seek help for a substance use disorder or for a mental health condition and integrate treatment if necessary.  At the same time, the Department will continue to provide specialized care for those with a mental health condition only or a substance abuse disorder only.

“We know that treatment is effective and recovery is possible,” said Baron. “We are putting a system in place that best supports healthy individuals and a strong community.”

The Department of Behavioral Health will:

  • Ensure that every individual seeking services is assessed for both mental health and substance use disorders
  • Develop the ability of the provider network to treat co-occurring disorders
  • Consolidate and enhance provider monitoring to ensure high quality service
  • Establish a single credentialing process for both mental health and substance abuse providers

The Department of Behavioral Health will conduct a survey of providers and consumers/clients in the fall to solicit feedback on how to improve the merger process, views on current services and ideas about gaps in service.

The annual budget of the new Department is $241 million dollars. The new Department also operates Saint Elizabeths Hospital, the District’s psychiatric facility.