Barbara Bazron will take over as the new director of the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) which has been at the forefront of tackling the District’s high rate of opioid overdoses. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the appointment in an email to her Cabinet members on April 9.
Since last November, the DBH, which is D.C.’ body responsible for the mental health and addiction treatment systems, has been without a chief executive after previous director Tanya Royster was fired amid controversy.
According to reports, significant addiction treatment programs were shrunk during the worst years of opioid crisis in the city. The DBH was also allegedly involved in mismanaging millions of dollars of federal grant money. The department’s grant management is currently under investigation by the federal government.
Inbox: 3 new personnel appointments by @MayorBowser — Barbara Bazron to head the Department of Behavioral Health; Gabriel Robinson to head the Department of Motor Vehicles; and Nicholas Majett as an administrative law judge on the Contract Appeals Board. https://t.co/gBTIwVUxVS
— The DC Line (@dclinenews) April 9, 2019
William Lawson, former head of the psychiatry department at the Howard University College of Medicine and a past president of the Washington Psychiatric Society, told The Washington Post that Bazron had been an effective collaborator during her previous stint at the behavioral health department.
“She was very easy to work with. She also understood the importance of integrating mental health and substance abuse (treatment),” said Lawson.
Bazron has previously served in the now-defunct Department of Mental Health (DMH). She was DBH’s top mental health official before DMH and the Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration merged to form DBH in 2013. She also served as the acting director when DBH’s first director retired in 2015. Currently, Bazron serves as the deputy secretary of behavioral health for the state of Maryland.
Over the next two years, the DBH will also receive tens of millions of dollars from the federal government to tackle the opioid crisis in the city. As the new director of DBH, Bazron will oversee the spending and ensure that the new grants are used in a proper and timely manner.