Oklahoma Policy Institute has grown a lot in the past few years. From humble beginnings in 2008, we now have a staff of 19, including talented individuals who focus on a wide range of policy issues, intensive data analysis, outreach, communications, events and operations, and more. To give you a better idea of who we are and what we all do, we are running an OK Policy Blog series highlighting our staffers.
For this edition, here’s Brittany Hayes, Mental Health Policy Fellow:
What do you do at OK Policy?
As a Mental Health Policy Fellow, I research and write about mental health and substance abuse in Oklahoma. The Fellowship is a two-year position for early career individuals who want a strong background in mental health, substance use, and advocacy. After graduating from law school and passing the bar, I chose to apply for the Fellowship because after interning at the Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office, I wanted to learn everything there was to learn about mental health and substance use, especially in the context of criminal justice.
What’s your favorite thing about doing this work?
My favorite thing about doing this work is learning the ins and outs of the system, and then translating what I’ve learned into consumable information to share with Oklahomans. So often families struggle with mental illness and substance use but have no idea where to start when it comes to getting help. I hope to make it easier for those individuals to access services. In the context of criminal justice, I love looking at the laws and policies and seeing how each county interprets those laws and policies and working to make sure the county you reside in has no negative effect on your already uncomfortable experience.
What would you most like Oklahoma to become a “Top 10 State” in?
So many of Oklahoma’s problems are interconnected. As a teacher, I saw issues in education. As a legal intern, I saw issues in criminal justice. As a Mental Health Policy Fellow, I’m seeing how interconnected all of these issues are. States are often burdened with choosing to be proactive or reactive, but in education, criminal justice, and mental health/substance use, we need a pro-style offense where we utilize all of our strengths with discretion, foresight, and data. I’d like to see Oklahoma be a Top 10 State in inclusivity, data collection/analysis, and second chances.
What else should OK Policy’s readers know about you?
I was a high school speech and debate coach before attending law school and still love to coach and judge speech and debate events in my free time. If I wasn’t at a debate tournament on a Saturday, I’d be watching Nebraska football or catching up on soccer. All of my friends know about my tendency to “stress bake.” If I have a deadline coming up, you can find me in the kitchen baking and then soon after begging someone to take whatever I baked, which usually turns out pretty great. Oh, and I really really dislike coffee.