NEW YORK, NY—The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center welcomes Marie Williams, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and current Vice Chair of the Advisory Council, as the new Chair of the Council of State Advisory Council organization. In this role, Williams will leverage her extensive leadership, policy and oversight experience to help guide the CSG Justice Center’s efforts to develop research-driven strategies to increase public safety and strengthen communities. As commissioner, Williams serves under Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, whose focus on criminal justice reform has produced significant change in the state.
“It’s such an honor to be part of this incredible group of changemakers from across the country. My time on the CSG Justice Center Advisory Board has been enlightening and impactful, and as we move forward together, we are truly shaping a future for our communities, our states, and our nation that is innovative, collaborative, and restorative,” Williams said.
The CSG Justice Center is a national, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that combines the power of a membership association, representing state officials in all three branches of government, with expertise in policy and research to use data to improve security and justice, as well as to advance health. , opportunities and equity. Prior to Commissioner Williams’ appointment, the advisory board was headed by Justice Michael P. Boggs, who serves on the Georgia Supreme Court.
“During my tenure as Chair of the Advisory Council, justice professionals across the country have sought new ways to responsibly reduce incarceration rates, strengthen community supervision practices, and keep safe more people in their local communities in response to the realities of a global pandemic,” Justice Boggs said. “I am proud of the work we have done to provide empirical evidence and proven strategies to states and municipalities that have formed the basis for many timely and responsible criminal justice reforms. Now, I can think of no better person to lead our work than Commissioner Williams. She brings invaluable experience and proven leadership in behavioral health services and criminal justice reform and is well prepared to guide the work of the CSG Justice Center through the next phase of responsible reforms. I am excited about the future of our work under his leadership.
During her career in behavioral health services and as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Williams demonstrated leadership in key areas such as substance abuse services, mental health services, emergency, criminal justice reform, and housing and homelessness services. Appointed commissioner in October 2016, Williams has led unprecedented growth in publicly funded prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery services, with annual budgets growing from $337 million to more than $504 million. dollars in the current fiscal year.
During her tenure as commissioner, Williams spearheaded the creation of the TN Together initiative, which aims to combat opioid addiction. The initiative has led to public investments in drug treatment, drug prevention, and law enforcement for Tennessee residents. She also established a unique public-private partnership with the Tennessee Hospital Association to address the time spent by patients in psychiatric distress in emergency departments. Williams has worked to more than double Tennessee’s network of restorative courts and oversees the department’s juvenile diversion programs.
Prior to his role as commissioner, Williams launched the House Creation Initiative (CHI) as Director of Housing Planning and Development at the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Since 2000, CHI has mobilized more than $850 million and developed more than 28,000 housing options for people with mental illness and concurrent substance use disorders. The program has been expanded twice to create additional housing for people recovering from substance use disorders who are returning to the community after incarceration.
“We are delighted to have Commissioner Williams chair our advisory council,” said Megan Quattlebaum, director of the CSG Justice Center. “She is our first president from the field of health and housing, rather than the justice system. Having her as a new leader underscores the CSG Justice Center’s belief that to improve outcomes for those affected by the justice system, other systems and sectors will need to be engaged as essential partners. Commissioner Williams’ experience in the areas of behavioral health, criminal justice reform, and housing and homelessness services is matched only by her deep dedication to the people her work serves. His leadership and vision are exactly what we need at this critical juncture in our nation’s efforts to build better security and justice systems that work for everyone.
Throughout her career, Williams has received numerous professional and community awards, including the Excellence in Advocacy Individual Achievement Award from the National Council for Behavioral Health, the George Goodman and Ruth P. Brudney National Social Work Award from Mental Health America, the Alumni Professional Achievement Award from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and the Senator Douglas Henry Award for Service to At-Risk Children and Families from the University of Tennessee College of Social Work.
ABOUT THE CSG JUSTICE CENTER
The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center is a national, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that combines the power of a membership association, representing state officials in all three branches of government, with expertise in policy and research to develop strategies that increase public safety and strengthen communities. For more information on the CSG Justice Center, visit www.csgjusticecenter.org.