SAN FRANCISCO—Mayor London Breed and Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of Public Health, announced on Wednesday, January 27 that Dr. Hillary Kunins will join the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) as Director of Behavioral Health Services and Mental Health.

In a press release by the Mayor’s office, Dr. Kunins will lead SF’s mental health initiative and “lead the transformation of mental health and substantive use care for” the city.

She currently works at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York City (NYC) as Executive Deputy Commissioner, a position she has held since June 2019, where she “oversees” the department’s “major strategic initiatives to improve the mental health and behavioral health of all New Yorkers,” the website states.

She was previously the Assistant Commissioner for nearly 7 years starting in July 2012, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Mayor Breed said it is a “critical time for behavioral care” and added that with Dr. Kunins, “we can build on our work to reform mental health services, continue our work to implement Mental Health SF, and find innovative ways to address the overdose crisis in” San Francisco.

Mental Health SF is a “key initiative” of the department’s Behavioral Health Services (BHS) that “delivers mental and substance use care, from early intervention programs in schools to outpatient counseling, residential treatment, and crises services” to about 30,000 residents annually.

Dr. Kunins said she is “honored” to join the SFDPH to “bring my experience to envision and implement an equitable, comprehensive, and respectful public health approach to serving San Franciscans with mental health and substance use needs,” as stated in the press release.

She helped New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio implement the HealingNYC initiative, which reimagined the city’s “public health approaches to substance use and overdose.”

Prior to her working in the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Dr. Kunins worked at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (located in the Bronx, NY) as Medical Director of a substance abuse treatment program. It was a job she held from September 2000 to June 2003, her LinkedIn profile states.  She later became a Research Fellow from July 2003 to June 2005.

For nearly 12 years, Dr. Kunins was an attending physician at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and was the Program Director of Residency in Primary Care/Social Medicine for five years.

Dr. Kunins received her Bachelor’s degree in Religion/Religious Studies from Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania and got her Master of Public Health in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in NYC.

She received her Doctor of Medicine (MD) from Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. She will join the SFDPH in March 2021.