Mental Health Commissioner Varney retiring

News release from the governor’s office
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Doug Varney will retire next month.

Varney has served as commissioner since 2011. Under Varney’s leadership, the department completed a major transformation in the mental health system in east Tennessee, better serving long-term patients by transitioning them into community-based programs. The department has also improved medical and business operations of state hospitals and made significant progress addressing the prescription drug epidemic.

“Doug’s passion for helping those with mental health and substance abuse issues has made a tremendous impact on the state. As a member of my Public Safety Subcabinet, I especially appreciate all he has done to help fight prescription drug abuse and expand and strengthen drug recovery courts in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “Doug has helped change the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens, and for that I am grateful.”

Varney has also been instrumental in leading efforts to triple federal discretionary grant funding to help veterans, increasing suicide prevention efforts and strengthening adult and children crisis services, and establishing mental health and substance abuse best practice guidelines.

“It has been my honor and privilege to serve in Governor Haslam’s administration as the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services,” Varney said.

“I am humbled to have worked with the dedicated and passionate leadership and employees of the department to ensure that families and individuals with mental health and addiction issues get the help they needed. I am proud of our many accomplishments and feel we have made great strides for those Tennesseans struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. Looking back on my time with the department, that is what matters most to me.”

Before serving as commissioner, Varney spent his professional career with Gray, Tenn.-based Frontier Health, a community mental health center serving families and individuals affected by behavioral health, substance abuse and intellectual deficit issues. He worked his way up from psychological examiner, counselor and therapist to president and CEO.

He has a master’s degree in psychology from East Tennessee State and was formerly licensed as a psychological examiner, marriage and family counselor and professional counselor.

Varney’s last day as commissioner will be October 21.