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Marie Williams

Commissioner
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Marie Williams, LCSW, was appointed Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) by Governor Bill Haslam, effective October 22, 2016. 

As Commissioner, Ms. Williams oversees and leads the Department in its role as the State’s public mental health and substance abuse authority with an annual budget of $380 million. She provides management and oversight of 1,846 full-time positions that assist individuals to secure treatment and recovery services for serious mental illness, serious emotional disturbances, and substance abuse disorders. This also includes system planning; monitoring, licensing, evaluation, and setting policy and quality standards; collaboration with other state and community agencies; and work to educate the community about mental health and substance abuse services. Oversight includes community mental health and substance abuse programs and the operation of four regional mental health institutes. Community behavioral health services are provided through contracted relationships with more than 280 not-for-profit and faith-based organizations with over 1,000 ongoing contractual agreements. The Department also operates four regional mental health institutes which serve about 9,000 individuals on an annual basis. The Department serves approximately 350,000 Tennesseans annually who are struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues.

In her past position as Deputy, Ms. Williams served as top advisor to the Commissioner and managed the departmental budget of over $337 million. Ms. Williams successfully assisted in the Department’s transformation initiative and the closure of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute through strong partnership and collaboration with community providers to move patients into the community and reinvesting $20.5 million into the community. Her leadership secured the support of three East Tennessee private psychiatric in-patient hospital partners to provide services to those patients previously served by Lakeshore. 

As Deputy, Ms. Williams worked with former Commissioner E. Douglas Varney regarding the prescription drug abuse epidemic facing our state and participated in the creation of the Prescription for Success initiative, a multi-faceted strategy to address the prescription drug problem in Tennessee. Deputy Williams also made a concerted effort to oversee the implementation of more “low-cost, high-impact” programs in the community.

Ms. Williams also served as the Assistant Commissioner of Mental Health Services where she worked collaboratively to expand consumer based recovery services. Her division oversaw the statewide planning process as well as the successful implementation of the behavioral health safety net program, which provides services for persons who were disenrolled from TennCare.  Her initiative, the Creating Homes Initiative (CHI), since its creation has leveraged $600 Million and developed over 18,000 supportive housing options along a continuum that allows for persons diagnosed with mental illness and co-occurring disorders to live in their communities in the least-restrictive settings.

Williams has also served as a Community Builder Fellow with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), director of homeless services for Catholic Charities of Memphis, and led the Homeless Services at the Midtown Mental Health Center in Memphis. She is the mother of Nicole Williams.