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DBHDS Press Releases

For Immediate Release:  February 26, 2009
[ link to pdf ]

General Assembly Passes Bill to Change Name of DMHMRSAS

Richmond – The General Assembly has passed legislation to change the name of the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services (DMHMRSAS) to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS). With the passage of SB 1117 and HB 2300, patroned by Senator Ticer and Delegate Caputo, respectively, and with signature from the Governor, the change will be effective July 1, 2009.

“I want to thank Senator Ticer and Delegate Caputo for putting forth legislation that was well-vetted by our many system stakeholders and broadly supported by legislators,” said DMHMRSAS Commissioner James Reinhard, M.D. “Not only is the new name less cumbersome, but it more broadly reflects the department’s mission and is flexible enough for the department to grow into other service areas, like autism. In addition, the new name moves away from the stigma associated with the term ‘retardation’.”

During the 2008 Session, the General Assembly passed a bill to replace the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disabilities” throughout the entire Code of Virginia. The bill was brought forward by The Arc of Northern Virginia and passed with a reenactment clause that required the 2009 General Assembly to vote on and pass the bill again. Afterwards, it was determined that replacing the term throughout the entire Code would jeopardize federal funding for programs that at this time must contain the words “mental retardation.” The 2009 bill only changes DMHMRSAS’ name as a first, though significant, step to updating the Code language.

Last summer, DMHRMSAS conducted surveys for staff and stakeholders to submit opinions on options for the department’s new name. The nearly 1,500 responses reflected support for renaming DMHRMSAS the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS). The cost of the name change will be absorbed by the department.


Available to citizens statewide, Virginia’s public mental health, intellectual disability and substance abuse services system is comprised of 40 community services boards (CSBs) and 16 state facilities. DMHMRSAS seeks to promote dignity, choice, recovery, and the highest possible level of participation in work, relationships, and all aspects of community life for individuals with a mental illness, intellectual disability or a substance-use disorder.

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