Philly behavioral health commissioner who led fight against opioid crisis is moving on

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia is losing the man who has led the fight against the opioid crisis and other behavioral health issues in the city.

David Jones, Commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), is leaving Philadelphia to head the substance use and prevention office for the state of Illinois. Mayor Jim Kenney says he'll be missed.

"We wish him well," said Kenney. "He's done a fabulous job for us while he's been here."

Jones earned wide respect as he grappled with the ballooning opioid epidemic. DBHIDS greatly expanded access to medically assisted treatment. Jones says 50,000 Philadelphians entered treatment between 2016 and 2018 and those results helped him carry on in the face of an overwhelming problem.

"The work that we did made a difference," he said.

Jones also had success with the "Housing First" strategy for people with behavioral health issues, who were also dealing with homelessness. Nearly 1,000 people were given homes along with services.

"When you look back five years, 88% of them remain successfully housed," he pointed out.

Jones said he also brought a trauma focus to treatment, and changed the response to mental health crises in youth, to keep them in the community instead of inpatient facilities.

"We started to see better outcomes for children and families, so that was significant," he said.

Jones announced his resignation last week, just as his work was being recognized with an award for the city from the international nonprofit NewCities. His last day will be October 9. Deputy Commissioner Jill Bowen will serve as Acting Commissioner while a national search is underway for Jones' replacement.