DC Council, Committee on Health

Budget Oversight Hearing

Rabiatu E Barrie, PhD

Civic Leader

Education Reform Now DC

Chairperson Christina Henderson and Committee on Health Members,

I am Dr. Rabiatu Barrie, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, and a civic leader for Education Reform Now DC. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. In this testimony, I will present actionable steps to enhance mental health services in DC Public Schools, supporting the overall well-being and success of our students.

Our primary asks are:

  1. Ensure stable compensation per clinician in FY 2024
  2. Ask the Committee of the Whole to hold a public hearing on the B25-0055, the “Pathways to Behavioral Health Degrees Act of 2023.”

We propose the following solution:

Increase funding for school-based behavioral health services to $5.7 million for FY 2024 to ensure stable compensation per clinician

The FY 2023 budget allotted $80,000 per clinician per school to place a community-based organization (CBO) clinician in each of DC’s 253 public schools. Due to staffing cost increases, DBH increased funds for CBOs by over 40%, to $99,000 per clinician per school in December 2022. However, CBOs are still facing challenges in recruiting and retaining clinicians due to a shortage of behavioral health care professionals in the District. We applaud DBH’s efforts and urge them to invest at least $5.7 million in the SBBH program to ensure stable compensation for partnering CBOs in fiscal year (FY) 2024.

We also recommend the following:

  1. Ask the Committee of the Whole to hold a public hearing on the B25-0055, the “Pathways to Behavioral Health Degrees Act of 2023.”

Community members and clinicians have been discussing this bill and believe that it is time to take action. Holding a hearing would be a step in the right direction to address the District’s long-term goals. Holding a public hearing will increase awareness of the proposed legislation among the general public and stakeholders, allow for a comprehensive discussion of these provisions, ensuring they are well-designed and effective in attracting and retaining students in this field, and help to ensure that mental health professionals better reflect the communities they serve.

By implementing these measures, the DC Council will send a strong message about its dedication to promoting mental and behavioral health in schools.

In conclusion, investing in school-based mental health services is vital for the well-being and success of our students. The proposed solution, supported by the DC Council’s commitment, can make a lasting positive impact on the lives of countless children and adolescents in the District of Columbia.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.