Mission Statement: Supporting individuals by promoting recovery, self-determination, and wellness in all aspects of life

Vision Statement: A life of possibilities for all Virginians

DBHDS Updates, May 2024

Commissioner Bio

Nelson Smith

Commissioner, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services

Nelson Smith was appointed by Governor Glenn Youngkin in 2022 to be the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), a state agency that operates 12 state hospitals and facilities with over 6,000 employees and oversees a $2.5 billion system that annually serves 217,000 Virginians and families with behavioral health disorders and developmental disabilities.

Before joining the private sector, Nelson served in the U.S. Army’s 5th Special Forces Group, where he was recognized with numerous awards for his exceptional leadership and bravery. He received the Purple Heart, four Bronze Star Medals, including one with the “V” device for Valor, and the Green Beret. After retiring from the military, he pursued an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and transitioned to a career in behavioral healthcare administration.

During his time at DBHDS, Nelson has prioritized thoughtful and intentional planning by developing and implementing the DBHDS Strategic Plan, with nine unique objectives, in concurrence with Governor Youngkin’s Right Help, Right Now plan to transform the behavioral health care system. Under Nelson’s leadership, DBHDS has modernized the way crisis services are delivered, made significant improvements to the state hospital system, and developed the capacity for continued progress throughout the system of care. With a strong foundation in faith, family, and love of country, Nelson remains dedicated to improving the lives of those he serves.

Organizational Chart

For more information, please see the report (updated 8/15/2022) pursuant to Item 320 Y of the 2020 Appropriations Act.

Chronological History of DBHDS