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FY14 Budget Testimony: Department of Behavioral Health and Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services

April 18, 2013

Children’s Law Center executive director Judith Sandalow testified before the DC Council’s Committee on Health at the budget hearing for the Department of Behavioral Health and the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. Her testimony focused on the budget for children’s mental health services. Read a summary below or her full written testimony as submitted to the committee.

When the new fiscal year begins in October, the Department of Mental Health will add programs addressing substance abuse and become the Department of Behavioral Health. As a whole, the new department’s budget will increase from current levels, including $9.6 million in local funds for Mental Health Rehabilitation Services (MHRS), which hopefully will improve these important services. However, the budget for other programs specifically serving children is flat, even though the current budget does not come close to meeting the needs of children with mental health problems in our city. Some specific initiatives where funds are needed include: the school mental health program, the early childhood mental health program, pediatrician screenings, and psychiatric access.

The office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services has a critical role in improving the coordination of services by many agencies that help children and families. One key goal for the District is reducing truancy, and the deputy mayor’s budget includes an additional $1 million to fund the Truancy Reduction Initiative, but it is unclear exactly how that money is being spent.