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Ben Harrington

Ben Harrington is the CEO of the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee and has held this position since 1994.  

Mr. Harrington is actively involved in advocacy matters at the local, state and national policy levels as well, having served on or chaired numerous boards, including the Tennessee Mental Health Planning & Policy Council & Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.

He has testified before numerous state legislative and Federal panels. His leadership was instrumental in the Tennessee Medicaid formulary modernization in 1998, which allowed patients immediate access to state of the art, standard of care anti-depressants and atypical antipsychotic medications.  He was also involved in the creation of the Behavioral Health Safety Net for uninsured Tennesseans in 2005 and leveraging funding for uninsured crisis services in 2008. In 2009, after years of Harrington’s advocacy at the state planning level, the state opened 6 new Crisis Stabilization Units to divert patients from unnecessary hospitalization to community based care.

The state of Tennessee closed its state hospital in Knoxville, TN.  Instead of recycling the funds elsewhere within the state budget, Harrington and other advocates secured policy maker commitment to reinvest 100% of the hospital funding ($20.5M) in mental health and addiction treatment services in East Tennessee. This reinvestment has resulted in more than a five-fold increase in numbers of people served in outpatient, inpatient, crisis services, diversion programs and peer and recovery services than were previously served by the hospital in its final year of operations.

Additionally, Harrington’s efforts have resulted in millions of dollars in budget reduction restorations over the years in Tennessee. These include restoration of Medicaid services such as Case Management funding ($35M) in 2015, annual restoration of Peer Support Center funding (using one-time funds) & eventual reclassification to recurring funding for long term preservation in the TDMHSAS budget. Current efforts in Tennessee include expanding addiction treatment access, sustaining mental health services, expanding crisis services and targeting resources toward treatment instead of incarceration of persons with mental health and addictions.

Under Harrington’s leadership and focus on early intervention, the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee has received numerous awards including the American Psychiatric Association – Psychiatric Achievement Award for Mental Health 101, TOP 25 Screening Site recognition by Screening for Mental Health in 2014, 2015 & 2016, and the Home Federal Bank Health Care Hero Award to CPRS staff Tina Wilder & the Peer Recovery Call Center.

Ben Harrington has been honored by the United Way of Greater Knoxville with the Wayne Murdoch CEO of the Year Award and in August 2010 he received the Health Care Heroes Award for Community Service presented by the Greater Knoxville Business Journal in recognition of the Mental Health 101 and Mental Health Matters in the Workplace programs.

He earned a BA in History in 1982 from Heidelberg University and his MA Ed in Education Counseling in 1984 from Bowling Green State University. He is married to Norma Harrington and together they have two sons, Donovan & Jackson and two dogs, Baxter Bugtussel & Lady Violet.