Oxford’s Rutledge named Mississippi Board of Mental Health’s chair

Published 4:26 pm Thursday, July 6, 2023

The Mississippi Board of Mental Health has selected Stewart Rutledge of Oxford as chair for the state fiscal year beginning July 1.

Rutledge is an affordable housing developer and attorney who has served on the board since 2017. In addition to his experience on the Board of Mental Health, Rutledge was previously appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour to be chairman of the Mississippi Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee and to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court’s Commission on Juveniles, both of which were aimed at ensuring the proper treatment of juveniles coming into contact with the justice system. In this capacity, Rutledge additionally served as Mississippi’s representative on the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice in Washington, D.C.

In Oxford, Rutledge serves on the University of Mississippi School of Law’s Business and Law Fellowship Advisory Committee, including occasional guest lectures, and he co-chairs Oxford’s Affordable Housing Commission.

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“The state of Mississippi has an extraordinary group of people working to serve Mississippians with mental health challenges, and they have done so over the last few years in spite of two of the biggest challenges to ever face our mental health system,” Rutledge said. “First, the department persevered through Covid-19, but, further, it did so even while the United States Department of Justice drained so many of our state’s limited resources in their never-ending battle against mental health systems nationwide.

“But, in spite of this, the department has outstanding leadership at all levels who are committed – at a moral level – to doing the best work possible for our state’s mental health consumers.”

Rutledge earned a bachelor’s degree in physics, graduating summa cum laude from the University of Mississippi. He enrolled in the University of Mississippi Medical School before deciding to attend the University of Mississippi School of Law, from which he also graduated with honors.

In addition to his juvenile justice-related work, he was appointed by then-Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann to explore Mississippi’s business laws and their relationship to emerging technology and served as a board member and general counsel for the Mississippi Freedom 50th, advising Congressman Bennie Thompson and Justice Reuben Anderson in efforts to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders.

He also previously served as corporate counsel to Sta-Home Healthcare, Mississippi’s largest home health providers. Though he maintains his law license, his primary work is in real estate development, with a focus on developing affordable housing. His company has developed more than 30 communities across several states, and two of his communities in Mississippi received consecutive awards as the best affordable housing communities in the nation.

Rutledge and his wife reside in Oxford with their four young children. He represents the First Congressional District and is a family member of a mental health consumer.

The governing board of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health is composed of nine members appointed by the governor of the state and confirmed by the State Senate. The nine-member board is composed of a physician, a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, a social worker with experience in the field of mental health, and one citizen representative from each of Mississippi’s five congressional districts (as existed in 1974).