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Washington, DC welcomes millions of visitors and part-time residents every year, although it is home to just over 632,300 full-time residents1. As the capital of the United States, the District of Columbia is the central location for all three branches of government: the White House (executive), Congress (legislative), and the Supreme Court (judicial). Tourists flock to the city to take in the sights that detail the country’s history. Some of the most famous attractions are the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, Arlington National Cemetery, the WWII Memorial, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Museum, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

Mental Health Statistics
Based on 2012 outcome reports from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 3 out of every 1,000 city residents received inpatient mental health services. In addition, family therapy was used by 4.8% of residents, multisystemic therapy by 8.1%, and 7.8% accessed assertive community treatment. In total, more than 20,000 D.C. residents received care through the district in 2012. Of those receiving treatment, 74.2% were between 20 and 64 years of age, and 18.3% were under the age of 182. SAMHSA also reported that between 2005 and 2010, 20.9% of city residents used some form of illicit drug, 12.9% had a substance abuse problem, and 6.7% had experienced an episode of depression in the prior 12 months3.

Mental Health Services
The District of Columbia is a cultural, ethnic, and linguistic melting pot that strives to ensure all of its residents have easy access to mental health services. The Mental Health Rehabilitation Services (MHRS) system allows residents to choose from district-affiliated private providers from within the community that will meet their behavioral health needs. Services provided to residents include housing assistance, employment assistance, rehabilitation services, crisis and emergency services, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, counseling, peer support programs, medication management, and assessment. One highly effective service offered through the MHRS is the same-day urgent care option. Residents in need of psychiatric assistance can enter any clinic during normal operating hours and receive immediate assessment, counseling, and medication if needed4.

Aside from the traditional services that the MHRS offers to children and families in the D.C. area, several specialized programs have been developed to reach those most in need. The Children and Adolescent Mobile Psychiatric Service (ChAMPS) allows providers to go directly to a child in need, regardless of where they are. Stabilization can be achieved onsite in an effort to prevent further emotional deterioration or inpatient admission. The mobile service is geared toward residents between the ages of 6 and 21 and provides follow-up care visits to ensure the family and child are receiving ongoing treatment and care.

Families First is a unique project designed to meet a range of behavioral and emotional needs of the district’s residents. Using a family-centered approach, Families First connects community services, private providers, and families facing emotional health challenges so that issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, and violence can be addressed. The goal is to help children and families learn how to prevent and cope with these situations and to strengthen individual and family resiliency5.

Children’s Services of SAMH allow for a broad spectrum of care, from infant care to transitional care into adulthood. Service planning and multidisciplinary teams involve community resources, mental health professionals, and family members. The goal of the Family Service Planning Team is to identify the immediate needs of the child and family and to design a program of care to meet those needs4.

1 U.S. Department of Commerce, United States Census Bureau. (2013). State & County QuickFacts. Retrieved from

2 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). District of Columbia 2012 Mental Health National Outcome Measures (NOMS): CMHS Uniform Reporting System. Retrieved from

3 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2012). National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Substance Use and Mental Disorders in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria MSA. Retrieved from

4 District of Columbia, Department of Mental Health. (2013). Adult Services. Retrieved from

5 District of Columbia, Department of Mental Health. (2013). Services. Retrieved from