New clinical director brings more than 20 years’ experience in substance abuse
A longtime regional leader in behavioral healthcare has joined Oxford Treatment Center as clinical director.
Jerri Avery, Ph.D., arrived on the Etta campus in August. Her role includes advancing clinical excellence at Oxford Treatment Center.
Avery brings more than 20 years experience in behavioral healthcare, including at the Mississippi Department of Mental Health’s Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services, where she served as director. She was most recently clinic director for Acadia Healthcare’s Jackson Comprehensive Treatment Center.
“Dr. Avery brings a high level of clinical insight and a wealth of experience in the field of behavioral healthcare,” CEO Mark Sawyer said.
“Her ability to lead our clinical team is matched only by her compassion for our patients and their families. We are very pleased to have her on board.”
Avery said a top priority at Oxford Treatment Center will be bringing new resources to the clinical team. That includes hiring additional therapists, as well as expanding opportunities for professional development for the center’s current team. Avery said she wants to see therapists grow and achieve new certifications in their areas of interest.
“Our clinicians are truly dedicated to what they do and to serving others. I want to give them every resource and tool they need, so that they can provide the highest quality care for our patients.
“We want to equip them to use their compassion, skills and training in such a way that they’re making lives better — and are also happy in their own life and work, too.”
Avery’s own research and teaching interests include public policy, research design and methodology, integration of primary care and behavioral health, substance abuse prevention, mental health promotion and medication assisted treatment.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master of education degree in community counseling, and a Ph.D. in public policy and administration. She is an adjunct professor at Belhaven University, teaching graduate-level courses in management research, public policy, management ethics and organizational behavior. She also regularly presents at state, regional and national conferences.
At the MDMH Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services, Avery was responsible for an annual budget of $21 million in federal and state funding. She secured and supervised the implementation of more than $50 million in federally funded discretionary programs.
She has previously served as a member of the National Prevention Network, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Directors, and the Mississippi Council on Compulsive Gambling’s Advisory Council. She is a former director of the Southeastern School of Addiction Studies and the Mississippi School for Addiction Professionals.
For Avery, interest in addiction treatment and recovery started early. As a child, she learned about recovery from the family of a close friend, whose father found recovery after living in addiction. She completed an internship during graduate school at a substance abuse treatment program. The experience fixed her course.
“I fell in love with addiction treatment and the hope of it — the fact that people do get better and create new lives for themselves,” she said.
Her earliest professional experiences included running an Intensive Outpatient Programming and serving as a clinical supervisor at a residential treatment program. She has also been involved in consulting and research.
Avery said joining Oxford Treatment Center offered a chance to return to a more hands-on role in helping people overcome addiction.
“Direct service in a program that houses people is very different from public administration,” she said.
“When your work is shaping policies and budgets, you are affecting people’s lives — but at a distance. At a treatment facility, you can see it every day.”