Denis Leary, Executive Director of Veterans Inc., is known for his creativity, compassion, and competence as the guiding force behind the agency’s programs and behavioral healthcare services throughout New England. Over the past 18 years, under Denis’ clinical direction, Veterans Inc. has grown rapidly in both size and scope. His leadership has made the critical difference in the lives of more than 90,000 veterans and their families, by helping them regain their health, establish stable housing, reassert themselves in the workforce, and reunite with family.
As a recognized leader on the national, state, and local level, Denis was awarded the 2017 George Washington Medal of Honor by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, for “deeds that reflect the best of the American spirit.”
Denis is also the first recipient of the Visions 2000 Award for Community Service. As part of that award, the Telegram & Gazette Editorial Board described him as someone who “shows us all how good we can be.” A health and exercise enthusiast, he was also named the “Fittest CEO” by the Worcester Business Journal.
As a member of the Board of Directors of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in Washington, D.C., Denis became a respected and dynamic voice providing advocacy on Capitol Hill for veterans’ issues. On the state level, he recently completed six years of service as a member of the Massachusetts Public Health Council, under both Governor Deval Patrick and Governor Charlie Baker. His colleagues have always recognized Denis for his knowledge and insight, and twice elected him as President of the Central Massachusetts Substance Abuse Association. He also currently serves on District Attorney Joseph Early’s Opioid Task Force.
As the son of working-class, first-generation Irish immigrants, Denis grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he learned the core values of loyalty, kindness, and social equality. These values were first put into action locally when, as a new graduate, he became a social worker at Worcester City Hospital helping the poor and disenfranchised, and later as an advocate for foster children displaced by parental abuse and neglect. Soon after, he created the Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health under the Worcester’s Health and Hospital Authority, and played a crucial role in creating Community Healthlink, a UMassMemorial affiliate.
His most notable achievement to date, was spearheading the Veterans Inc. aggressive response to the opiate epidemic in 2016, by creating the first licensed substance addiction treatment center in the country that is operated by a veteran specific, non-profit organization. Known as Independence Hall, the center offers a full array of care including inpatient, day treatment, and outpatient counseling. Located in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, Independence Hall remains at the vanguard of addiction service delivery, and has been awarded national certification by CARF – The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
Denis earned a Bachelor’s degree with Honors from Stonehill College, where he was awarded the prestigious Rousseau Research Award for his work in stress disorders. He received his graduate training at Boston College, where he earned a Master of Social Work degree, and is licensed by the Massachusetts Board of Social Work.
Denis treasures his large extended family, but above all else, he is the proud father of two daughters, Danielle and Kelly. Danielle is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, and is on active duty as a U.S. Navy flight surgeon with Carrier Air Wing 17, and recently completed a seven-month deployment to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. She is assigned to Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego. Kelly is a Dean’s List graduate of the Eisenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She re-located to San Diego with Marriott International Inc., and was recently recruited and hired by GoFundMe, a for-profit crowdfunding platform, that allows people to raise money for causes ranging from life events such as celebrations and graduations, to challenging circumstances like accidents and illnesses.
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