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Make a Mental Note

I am writing in response to Mike DeBonis’ column, “Veterans Affairs: DOH firing shows what the new D.C. government is all about” (Loose Lips, 5/8). The column implies that Mayor Fenty’s restructuring of the Department of Mental Health’s services is an arbitrary privatization. It is not.

Closing the Department of Mental Health’s government-run services saves $10 million, which will allow the District to make Medicaid mental health services available to 50,000 more low-income D.C. residents.

Contrary to DeBonis’ suggestion, the DMH reform does not replace experienced government workers with inexperienced staff. Instead, it enables the people who’ve been providing services for decades—the community-based nonprofits like Catholic Charities, Green Door, and Woodley House—to do more of it. Many of these nonprofits were in existence before the government-run center, and DMH’s essential reform strengthens their ability to provide the services and care that they’ve been doing for years.

DMH’s reform is not a sign of an executive run amok. It’s a sign of reform done right—a plan formed after extensive stakeholder discussion, a well-thought-out implementation plan, and a careful transition that puts the needs of D.C. residents first.

Shannon Hall

Executive Director

D.C. Behavioral Health Association