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Politics & Government

Rep. Barbieri leaving House seat to head DHSS division

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A member of Delaware’s General Assembly is leaving for a new job with the state.

Mike Barbieri (D-Newark) is resigning from House of Representatives next month to become the new director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health in the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS).

Barbieri has held the 18th District seat since 2008 and is chair of the House Health and Human Development Committee.

"When asked to become the director of Substance Abuse and Mental Health services for the state, I was honored and felt that this would be an ideal opportunity to address the issues I am most concerned about. This is not a new career for me; it’s a continuation of my professional life’s work, where I feel I can make even more of a positive difference," said Barbieri in a statement.

Barbieri is currently the CEO of Crossroads of Delaware, a Wilmington-based adolescent substance abuse treatment program he started in 1992.  The center works with youth struggling with substance use and mental health issues.  He previously worked as a probation officer in Philadelphia’s drug unit and served as executive director of Hidden Brook, a drug treatment facility in Bel Air, Md.

DHSS Scretary Rita Landgraf says Barbieri is well qualified for the to lead 

“With his background in social work, and substance abuse treatment and recovery services, he is the ideal person to lead this division," said Secretary Landgraf  in a statement. "His leadership is critical as our department enters the final year of a five-year Settlement Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice over required changes at Delaware Psychiatric Center and reforms in the state’s community-based mental health system. In addition, he will help our division continue to respond to the state’s ongoing addiction epidemic by managing increases in treatment capacity, along with reforms to public substance abuse treatment and recovery services.”

Barbieri says he will relinquish ownership of Crossroads to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest.

"Even though we have no contractual or any other connection with DSAMH other than an annual licensing visit, I felt there might be a perceived conflict and I didn’t want this to interfere with the work of Crossroads or DSAMH," said Bariberi in his statement.

Delaware Republican Party officials say Barbieri's move from Legislative Hall to DHSS feels like a case of cronyism.

"We hope that Representative Barbieri enjoys making $144,000 while the working men and women in his district struggle to make ends meet," said Delaware GOP Party executive director John Fluharty.

Barbieri will replace Dr. Gerard Gallucci as head of Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.  Dr. Gallucci has served as acting director since Kevin Ann Huckshorn resigned in October 2014.

Barbieri will officially vacate his House seat August 3.  A special election to fill it must be held 30-to-45 days after he departs, but no date for that election has been set yet