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Director of the Department of Mental Health announces retirement

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Today, Director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health (DMH) Mark Stringer announced his plans to retire effective January 1, 2022.  He leaves after giving more than 34 years of service to the mental health field; with 24 years at DMH including the last seven years as DMH Director.

“The Commission is grateful for Mr. Stringer’s years of service to the Department of Mental Health,” said Teresa Coyan, Chair of the Mental Health Commission.  “It has been a privilege to work with such a devoted, respected and innovative mental health advocate.”

Mark Stringer has been a dedicated public servant to thousands of Missourians with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders.  He has also had a national presence testifying before the U.S. Congress on various mental health issues; serving as President of the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors; and serving in the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.  Over the years he has received numerous awards for recovery and treatment innovation and leadership.

During his tenure, Stringer oversaw the building and completion of Fulton State Hospital’s new Nixon Forensic Center.  He has provided tireless leadership for DMH through further integration of physical and behavioral health care, the expansion of medication treatment for people with substance use disorders, and development of a new treatment model for individuals with complex mental illness and developmental disabilities. He has been at the helm for critical programming to fight the opioid epidemic, grow recovery support services, enhance employment opportunities for clients to work in the DMH system, and move the department toward being a system of trauma-informed care.

“It has been a true honor and privilege to work with Governor Parson and his staff, the hard working employees of DMH, my leadership team, our community service partners, and the people and families we serve,” Stringer said. “In all my years in the mental health field, this has been my most rewarding professional experience.”

Deputy Director, Valerie Huhn, will serve as Acting Director for DMH beginning in November while Stringer takes leave until his official retirement date at end of the year.

The Missouri Mental Health Commission will begin a search for a new Director on October 15.  The search process which will include input from statewide representatives from behavioral health and developmental disabilities stakeholder organizations.  The Commission expects to select a new Director to begin in January 2022.

For more information contact Debra Walker at or (573) 751-1647.

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