BOSTON – Thursday, June 9, 2022 – In an important step in the ongoing work to meet Bostonians' health needs, address longstanding gaps in access, and elevate mental and behavioral health as a Citywide priority. Mayor Michelle Wu and Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), today announce Kevin M. Simon, M.D., as BPHC's first-ever Chief Behavioral Health Officer. Dr. Simon will provide leadership and oversight in developing and implementing a comprehensive behavioral health agenda for the City through a public health lens. Dr. Simon's initial focus will be on immediate and long-term strategies to support youth mental health.
"Bostonians, especially our young people, are experiencing a mental health crisis that requires an urgent, wrap-around public health approach," said Mayor Michelle Wu. "By investing in a new Chief Behavioral Health Officer, we are prioritizing building an equitable and coordinated citywide response to the increasing mental and behavioral health needs of our residents. Dr. Simon's expertise and vision is unmatched, and we are thrilled to see him step into this leadership role."
Raised as the son of Haitian parents in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Simon has lived in Boston for over four years. Currently, Dr. Simon is an Assistant in Psychiatry at Boston Children's Hospital, an Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, a Commonwealth Fund Fellow in Health Policy at Harvard University, and the Medical Director of Wayside Youth & Family Support Network, a child welfare and community behavioral health agency. Clinically, he practices as a Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist and Addiction Medicine specialist caring for youth, young adults, and families through the Adolescent Substance Use & Addiction Program (ASAP) at Boston Children's Hospital.
"Our young people are facing enormous challenges impacting their health and well-being. Many families cannot access, afford, or navigate the maze we call our mental and behavioral health systems. I have dedicated my career to caring for, observing, thinking, and writing about people experiencing mental and behavioral health struggles while advocating for improvements in our care systems. Persons and families going through those struggles will continue to be my priority," said Dr. Kevin Simon. "I am eager to build on Mayor Wu and Dr. Ojikutu's leadership, commitment, and vision to urgently address our youth mental health crisis and develop sustainable community-driven solutions that meet the needs of our City's youth."
As a researcher, Dr. Simon has received federal funding for work focused on the intersections of mental health, substance use, and justice involvement. These include the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Physician-Scientist program in Substance Abuse K12 award funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the REACH (Recognizing and Eliminating Disparities in Addiction through Culturally-informed Healthcare) program at Yale School of Medicine funded by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). He completed clinical fellowships in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine at Boston Children's Hospital / Harvard Medical School and a residency in Adult Psychiatry at Grady Hospital and the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, both affiliated with Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA. He received his medical degree from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, IL, after attending Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD, for college.
"Mental and behavioral health are among Boston residents' most urgent health needs, particularly children and adolescents. The public health crises of racism and COVID-19 have exacerbated the persistent mental and behavioral health disparities our residents face," said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. "With Dr. Simon's expertise, BPHC will develop strategies to ensure long-term, sustainable solutions to our communities' unmet needs."
Mayor Wu has prioritized efforts to improve equitable access to mental and behavioral health care by proposing several investments in this work in her FY23 budget. Dr. Simon will collaborate with community partners and City agencies and departments. He will drive the development of ambitious, innovative prevention and response models for mental health and substance use that promote whole wellness. These efforts will strive to address historical systemic racial inequities through a comprehensive and coordinated citywide response in Boston.
His clinical work and research, particularly with youth, will support and expand BPHC's existing efforts around behavioral health, including trauma response, child, adolescent, and family interventions. His expertise in addiction will bolster ongoing measures to address persons experiencing substance use disorders and those experiencing homelessness. In addition, Dr. Simon will thoughtfully guide efforts to enhance our workforce resilience.
Dr. Simon started in this role at the beginning of the month. More information about Dr. Simon's published research, writings, and background are available on his website.
About Boston Public Health Commission
BPHC, one of the oldest health departments in the United States, is an independent public agency providing a wide range of health services and programs. It is governed by a seven-member board of health appointed by the Mayor of Boston. Public service and access to quality health care are the cornerstones of our mission - to protect, preserve, and promote the health and well-being of all Boston residents, particularly those who are most vulnerable. The Commission's more than 40 programs are grouped into six bureaus: Child, Adolescent & Family Health; Community Initiatives Bureau; Homeless Services; Infectious Disease; Recovery Services; and Emergency Medical Services. To learn more, visit the BPHC website at www.bphc.org.