News

As Heroin Deaths Mount, Philly Gets New Leader in the Fight

by Claudia Vargas, Staff Writer

With Philadelphia confronting an unprecedented opioid crisis, Mayor Kenney has confirmed a new leader for the department charged with leading the fight. David T. Jones, who has been acting commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) since January, may now remove the “acting” from before the title.

Kenney announced Friday that after a five-month-long national search for a new commissioner, Jones will be the department’s new leader. Jones replaces Arthur C. Evans Jr., who left in January to become CEO of the American Psychological Association.Jones, 52, will oversee the department, which has a $1 billion-a-year budget and nearly 800 employees. The agency is charged with managing the city’s mental health services, addiction treatments, and disability services for adults and children.

“This agency and its dedicated staff are closely involved with some of the most pressing issues facing our children, adults, and families, including the growing, sad to say, opioid epidemic and responding to individuals who are homeless and dealing with substance misuse or mental health challenges, Kenney said during Friday’s announcement.

When Kenney announced Jones’ name to a standing room only crowd in the Mayor’s Reception Room, the room broke out in cheers and applause. Jones is said to have a lot of supporters within the department.

Kenney said Jones has “the knowledge, the vision and the ability to lead DBHIDS and ensure that those in need receive the best service and treatment possible.”

Jones has been with the department since 2013, serving as a deputy commissioner before he was tapped to fill in as acting commissioner in January. As deputy commissioner, Jones oversaw the department’s fiscal and administrative operations. Prior to his time at DBHIDS, Jones was chief of behavioral health and crisis services for the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services in Maryland.

At the announcement Friday, Jones praised the staff at DBHIDS.

“These folks have great acumen. They have tremendous skill sets and they are certainly committed to serving Philadelphians,” Jones said. He also said he looked forward to continuing to work with the various city departments such as police and health to address the many needs of the city.

At the public forefront of the issues is the opioid crisis. More than 900 people died last year from opioid overdoses, a 30 percent increase from 2015. This number of fatalities this year is expected to surpass last year’s numbers.

Jones’ department will be responsible for implementing the recommendations brought forth in May by the Mayor’s Task Force to Combat the Opioid Crisis. Jones said Friday that work has already begun by increasing the number of treatment slots available.

“It’s going to be a continued work in progress,” he said of the rollout of the task force recommendations.

David T. Jones Chosen to Lead Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services

Contact: Monica Lewis-Wilborn, Director of Communications
267-588-6609, monica.lewis-wilborn@phila.gov

PHILADELPHIA, PA — After a five-month search, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced the appointment of David T. Jones as Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), a $1 billion healthcare agency with nearly 800 employees.  Jones had been serving as Acting Commissioner following the departure of Dr. Arthur Evans, who left to become president of the American Psychological Association in February.

“The Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services addresses some of the most challenging issues and critical needs facing our city and the people who live here. From the growing opioid crisis to the pain and hardships often associated with mental illness and intellectual disabilities, DBHIDS has been at the forefront to help our most vulnerable citizens,” Kenney said. “It takes a hardworking and compassionate person to lead an agency with so much to do and so many to serve. I’m proud to say we found such a person in David T. Jones. He has the knowledge, the vision and the ability to lead DBHIDS and ensure that those in need receive the best service and treatment possible.”

Prior to serving as Acting Director of DBHIDS, Jones spent four years as Deputy Commissioner. In that role, he provided oversight to the department’s fiscal and administrative operations. Prior to his time in Philadelphia, Jones was Chief of Behavioral Health and Crisis Services for the Montgomery County (MD) Department of Health and Human Services. There, he administered a wide-range of diverse programs addressing child and adult mental health, substance misuse, crisis center, victims assistance, and consumer services.

As a behavioral health administrator with more than 25 years of progressive management experience, Jones has produced measurable results to improve the lives of children, adults, and families with behavioral health needs. He possesses in-depth knowledge of state and federal regulations inclusive of Medicaid managed care and mental health rehabilitation standards and has excelled in managing both urban and suburban public behavioral health systems that achieved outcomes inclusive of increasing access to care and expanding the range of services available to residents with behavioral health care needs. Additionally, he has national experience developing multi-disciplinary coalitions to affect sustainable community-level change.

Such experience will be helpful as DBHIDS is at the forefront of key initiatives for the city, including the Mayor’s Task Force to Combat the Opioid Crisis. Under Jones’ leadership, DBHIDS will be carrying out work to implement recommendations brought forth from the task force to serve those impacted by opioid misuse. The department will continue to be involved in the cross-sector response to other issues, including homelessness and multi-dimensional supports for youth in the city.

“I’ve had the great pleasure to work with DBHIDS and its dedicated staff since 2013. So, I know first-hand what we can do to ensure the well-being of children, adults, and families in this great city,” said Jones, who earned a Master of Science in Community School/Clinical Child Psychology from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

“I am both humbled and excited to be at the helm as we continue innovative and impactful work, especially as we aim to address the opioid crisis and provide the highest quality of services to our most vulnerable citizens, including our children,” Jones added.

Eva Gladstein, Deputy Managing Director of the City’s Health and Human Services Cabinet that includes DBHIDS, praised Jones for leading DBHIDS in an acting capacity and expressed confidence in his ability to manage the department during such a critical time.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with David and am convinced there is no better leader for DBHIDS today,” Gladstein said. “We conducted a national search and many of those we considered for this role have the intellect and experience required for the position. David stood out, however, as a leader with integrity, charisma, and an extraordinary ability to connect vision, people, and ideas to implement the quality service and programming needed to positively change lives and communities throughout Philadelphia.”

To learn more about Jones, please visit his profile page in the Leadership section of DBHIDS.org.

Village View: Brighter Futures Features Main Liners

March is National Disability Awareness Month, and several Main Liners were front and center last Friday at the Sheraton Downtown Philadelphia Hotel when more than 500 people gathered to honor the winners of the 2016 My City, My Place Brighter Futures awards. The awards day, sponsored by Philadelphia Intellectual disAbility Services, honors community members who go out of their way to enable citizens with disabilities to take their rightful place in the community.

The keynote speaker at the luncheon awards ceremony was Lower Merion native Ted Dallas, the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Department Human Services (DHS). He explained the impact of the budget impasse in Harrisburg and how having to cut $600 million from Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed budget, if the legislature gets its way, would impact negatively on the services for the people served by DHS. Dallas had served during the Rendell administration as a Deputy Secretary under Estelle Richman, and before joining the Wolf administration he had been for five years the chief executive of Maryland’s DHS.

He went on from Lower Merion to Penn for undergraduate work, and then to Temple for a graduate degree. Dallas was interrupted by applause at least a dozen times as he outlined his plans for more community participation, more employment opportunities, and better educational offerings for people with disabilities.

The morning plenary session featured a presentation to Daniel Schidlow, M.D., of Narberth, the Dean of Drexel University’s College of Medicine. Because the theme of the day’s celebration was “Inventive Paths to Brighter Futures,” Dr. Schidlow and his medical school students were right in step with the theme. They have created the Health Outreach Project, which sees the medical students, supervised by faculty physicians, doing weekly health assessments at clinics at facilities like The Arc of Philadelphia, people who often have difficulty expressing themselves. After assessing eyesight, hearing, blood pressure, etc., and learning how to communicate with adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, the students write up reports which are given to the people they met with to share with their families, support coordinators and ultimately their primary physicians for follow-up.

In accepting his award in the morning, Dr. Schidlow quoted someone who had said about the population served by his students’ clinics, “Their bodies and minds may not be perfect, but their souls are perfect.”

The perennial Mistress of Ceremonies for all of IDS’ awards ceremonies is Loraine Ballard Morrill, of IHeartMedia in Bala Cynwyd, the news director of the media giant. Loraine often ends up teary-eyed as she reads out the stories for each award-winner. She also makes it a point to interview providers and advocates on her public service programs.

You may have noticed that there has been a lot of publicity about autism, the increasing incidence of the diagnosis, and the public awareness about the need for more funding for programs. Councilman-at-large Derek Green, Esq., who presented a citation from the City Council at the luncheon awards, talked about his own son who was diagnosed with autism when he was a toddler. Green heads up the City Council committee on what he calls “Differences” — preferring that title to “Disabilities.”

Denise Taylor Patterson, the Director of IDS, and Commissioner Arthur C. Evans, Jr., Ph.D., who heads up the Department of Behavioral Health and IDS, did not select the speakers because of their having family members with autism or other intellectual disabilities, but it seems to have turned out that way. The moderator of the morning plenary session, Terri Matthews, is the CEO and founder of Jaden’s Voice, the nonprofit she founded after her son was diagnosed with autism.

And Sheila Hess, the City Representative who brought greetings from Mayor Jim Kenney, also told the audience about her own inspiring life story, how she was born with spinal bifida but insisted on going to the elementary school down the street from her home, even though it was an ancient building with lots of steps everywhere. But her parents believed in her, and she achieved her goals. She also credited Temple University’s Institute on Disabilities for their assistance when she was an undergraduate at Temple.

A new award was created this year, the Pioneer Award, and it was given to Marianne Roche, a recently retired staff person at IDS who earlier in her career had been director of the Montgomery County department which supervised services for citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She also had a sister with intellectual disability, and she has had a life-long passionate commitment to advocating for people who are, as Councilman Green says, “different.” She now has a new “career” as a Reiki instructor, and she donates her services to people at the Norcom Community Center.

Roche has marched on legislators more often than anyone can count, urging them to pass legislation — and to pass budgets — which include adequate funding for human services and programs.

Scott Stein, who chairs the Science Department at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH), has had his students pairing off with people in the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Partial Hospitalization Program since 2009. The inventions which his students and their “buddies” have created are amazing. Using levers and buttons for people with limited physical prowess, the collaboration has created ways for the UCP people to do things most of us take for granted.. Most important of all are the friendships which result from the interaction.

-Bonnie Squires, Communications Consultant, DBHIDS