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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.