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Marie Williams, Chair

Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Marie Williams, LCSW, serves as commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS). Under her leadership, the state has initiated many criminal justice reforms, proactively responded to the opioid crisis, and developed innovative ways to address emergency department boarding of psychiatric patients, among other initiatives. Ms. Williams was reappointed as commissioner by Governor Bill Lee on January 19, 2019, and was initially appointed to the post by Gov. Bill Haslam, effective October 22, 2016. Under her guidance and strategic vision and with support from the state’s elected leaders and federal government partners, the TDMHSAS annual budget has grown from $337 million to more than $500 million. Innovative new programs instituted under her leadership include the Creating Homes Initiative, which has created more than 28,000 housing opportunities and leveraged more than $850 million in funding for people living with behavioral health challenges; prearrest diversion infrastructure projects across Tennessee, which kept more than 13,000 people out of jail and saved local governments nearly $10 million in the first two years; and the Tennessee Recovery Navigators who interact with people in emergency departments and successfully connect more than 75 percent of them to substance use disorder treatment. Ms. Williams provides leadership and oversight to 1,849 full-time positions that assist individuals in securing treatment and recovery services for serious mental illness, serious emotional disturbances, and substance use disorders. She began her career in behavioral health as a mental health case manager for people experiencing homelessness and substance use disorders in Memphis, Tennessee, and that front-line experience still informs her decision-making and thought processes.

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