TDMHSAS Celebrates 1000 Certified Recovery Congregations

Department marks milestone in activating community partners
Thursday, May 04, 2023 | 08:59am

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) is marking a milestone in its work to encourage, equip, and empower community partners to address mental health and addiction issues.  The department recently certified its 1,000th Recovery Congregation through its Faith-Based Initiative.

The certification process asks faith leaders to do just a few simple things: attend free trainings and learn more about the mental health and addiction challenges faced by people in the pews and in the community, view addiction as a treatable disease rather than a moral failing, and commit to finding ways to use resources, ministries, and time to support the behavioral health needs of the faithful and the community.

The TDMHSAS Faith-Based Initiative began in 2014 and grew out of the Lifeline Peer Project which employs people in long-term recovery from addiction to create recovery resources and provide education to break down the stigma of addiction.  In recent years, the initiative grew to include four, regional Faith-Based Community Coordinators and an assistant director who was promoted from the community coordinator position.  It also expanded in scope to account for the growing desire for mental health education and supports.

“When you look at the opportunities for congregations and faith communities to become places of support for people struggling with mental illness and addiction, we knew that this work would have a tremendous impact,” TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW.  “Through our Faith-Based Initiative, pastors can pair their desire to help their congregations and communities with our resources and free trainings to create an environment that’s a place of solace instead of judgement.”

The TDMHSAS Faith-Based Initiative has been recognized at the highest levels including the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Addiction and Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Networks, and the National RX and Illegal Drug Summit.  Additionally, subject matter experts from Tennessee have offered training and technical assistance to 17 other states looking to create a similar effort.

Link to TDMHSAS Faith-Based Toolkit

“From buttoned-down services to biker church, across all 95 counties of our great state, the TDMHSAS Faith-Based Initiative team has been and continues to go everywhere we’re invited.  We’re so grateful for our partners of all faiths and denominations who have answered the call and created opportunities for generational change in their pews and in their communities,” said Dr. Monty Burks, TDMHSAS Director of Faith-Based Initiatives.  “For anyone who has heard the call and knows the need but doesn’t know where to start, please just reach out.”

In addition to the more than 1,000 Certified Recovery Congregations, the TDMHSAS Faith-Based Community Coordinators have held about 1,800 free educational events.  Training topics include: the brain science of addiction, an introduction to common mental health conditions, Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) suicide prevention, adverse childhood experiences and trauma-informed care, and more. To find contact information and learn more about the TDMHSAS Faith-Based Initiative, visit: