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Department of Behavioral Health


Interagency Council on Behavioral Health Establishment Amendment Act of 2019

Interagency Council on Behavioral Health Establishment Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: March 5, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, Brandon Todd, and Kenyan McDuffie


Summary: To amend The Department of Behavioral Health Establishment Act of 2013 to establish an Interagency Council on Behavioral Health and to describe its members, powers, and duties.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with my colleagues Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, Brandon Todd, and Kenyan McDuffie, I am introducing the Interagency Council on Behavioral Health Establishment Amendment Act of 2019.

Modeled after the Interagency Council on Homelessness, this legislation establishes an Interagency Council on Behavioral Health for the purpose of facilitating cross-sector, cabinet-level leadership in planning, policymaking, program development, and budgeting for a culturally competent, outcome-based, behavioral health system of care.

Just last year, the Office of the Auditor and the Council for Court Excellence completed a robust report focused on the Department of Behavioral Health's work with justice-involved individuals and the criminal justice system broadly.

The report was revealing, highlighting enormous gaps in service and raising serious questions about agency leadership.

It was the culmination of a series of perplexing and deeply troubling events—a trend that unfortunately continues.

In January, federal officials launched an investigation into the Department's mishandling of millions of dollars awarded over the past 2-years to treat opioid addiction and reduce fatal overdoses—money that was never actually spent to that effect.

That audit was just the most recent example of inexcusable lapses on the part of DBH.

In my opinion, we have absolutely failed in the provision of quality behavioral health services for our residents.

There has been an inadequate response to the opioid crisis specifically and almost no prioritization of substance abuse treatment generally; delayed or non-payment to our dedicated community-based providers; the closure of several Core Service agencies; a failure of the iCAMS billing system; poor rollout of the School-Based Mental Health program as well as the continuing challenge to implement it with fidelity; and of course the many issues highlighted within the CCE report.

Further, DBH has been without permanent leadership since November as the Director of DC Health is now forced to split her time between both agencies, an arrangement that is wholly untenable.

For all of these reasons, I believe now is the time to elevate, prioritize, and strengthen our behavioral health system of care.

As a city, it is imperative that we do better for our residents. In order to chart a path forward we have to be honest about our missteps, clear in our vision, and diligent in our effort to provide the highest quality care to some of the most vulnerable among us.

Through this legislation we will ensure that all of the relevant stakeholders are at the table and afforded a meaningful opportunity to shape our system and develop a comprehensive strategic plan to move us forward.



Grosso alarmed by latest move threatening students’ behavioral health

For Immediate Release:
November 29, 2018
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 -

Grosso alarmed by latest move threatening students’ behavioral health

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education and member of the Committee on Health, today sent a letter to the co-chairs of the School-Based Mental Health Coordinating Council, raising serious concerns about the Department of Behavioral Health’s allocation of funding for, and ultimately the provision of, student behavioral health services.

“Let me be clear, as a city we will not close the achievement gap if we do not know, understand, and meaningfully invest in the behavioral well-being of our students,” Grosso wrote.

Several community-based organizations have contacted Grosso with concerns about the DBH allocation of funds in a manner that runs contrary to the Task Force’s recommendations--a move that was made unilaterally by DBH. Without the funding structure recommended, many CBOs would withdraw and our highest need schools would forgo additional delivery of critical services.

“This is wholly unacceptable. Not only does it deviate from what both the Task Force and the Coordinating Council previously committed to, but it undermines the viability of the program,” Grosso wrote. “The program is disintegrating before it ever had a chance for success. It is absolutely imperative that we course correct.”

The School-Based Mental Health program is on its second attempt at expansion, following a lackluster roll out in 2017 that necessitated Council intervention, led by Grosso and Ward 7 Councilmember and Health Committee Chairperson Vince Gray, to create a task force comprised of a diverse group of stakeholders and the Department of Behavioral Health to offer recommendations.

But in his letter to DBH, Grosso called into question the DBH’s and the Executive branch’s motivations and good faith in its participation on the task force and its provision of services that put our students in the best position to succeed academically.

“Not only do I feel the Executive has been grossly dishonest about their intentions as it relates to this program, but I’ve come to believe that the Department is so intent on doing more with less that they are willing to compromise the type and quality of services that we afford our students,” he wrote.

Grosso has requested answers from DBH and the Coordinating Council on the timeline of student service delivery, the decision-making process of the funding reallocation, and contingency plans if the current course of action fails. Those responses are due by end of day December 5th.




DOH, DBH responds to Grosso letter regarding safe injection sites to combat the opioid crisis

Councilmember David Grosso received a letter from Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt and Department of Behavioral Health Director Dr. Tanya Royster in response to his Sept. 19 letter urging exploration of supervised injection facilities (SIFs) as part of a comprehensive public health approach to combating the opioid crisis and saving lives in the District of Columbia.

DOH/DBH's letter details Dr. Nesbitt's findings from a recent site-visit to a SIF in Vancouver. SIFs there have led to a decrease in opioid-related deaths and, to date, have not experienced an overdose related death on-premises. 

DOH and DBH noted that the success of such facilities has been made possible by coordination between local and federal authorities in Canada, which could present a barrier to implementation in the District of Columbia.

However, the Opioid Working Group is committed to reducing harm and deaths associated with the opioid crisis and will consider what would be required to implement SIFs in D.C. as it develops the Opioid Strategic Plan over the next few months.

You can read the response letter and the original letter sent by Councilmember Grosso below.