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 Operations & Development Associate Kourtni Cain:
What do you do at OK Policy?
I am part of a wonderful Operations & Development team. I ensure that OK Policy is funded in a variety of ways — writing grants to secure funding for campaigns and programs; building relationships with Oklahomans to foster community engagement & contributions; and planning/hosting events to inform the public about critical issues facing them every day. I also have the privilege of working with our interns by showing them the skills they will need to successfully navigate the world of non-profit organizations once they leave us.
What’s your favorite thing about doing this work?
My favorite part of working at OK Policy is when we receive personal notes attached to contributions or any other form of communication to our office. It is amazing to see how many lives we touch, and that the work we do is really and truly valuable to Oklahomans all over the state. I have heard personal stories from many people, all of which sought us when they knew they needed help. It is wonderful to know the public respects our content so much. I really enjoy meeting people at our events and others, even speaking to people in passing conversation, and being able to tell them that they ARE ABLE to affect change in their state! I also truly enjoy being able to work in the realm of public policy; although I am not a policy analyst, my degree is in Political Science, and I am so lucky to be immersed in what I love (both government policy and fundraising) every day.
What would you most like Oklahoma to become a “Top 10 State” in?
I would like to see Oklahoma become a top 10 state in mental health funding and treatment. Rural communities like the one I grew up in suffer from lack of access to mental health facilities and/or treatment options. Often, small-town general practitioners are all that is available, and while they do the best job they can, rural communities are where the need is greatest for mental health professionals. Suicide prevention is a very dear issue to my heart, and my hope is that Oklahoma will take all contributing factors seriously — like access to lethal weapons, prescription medication, and stigma associated with seeking treatment. It is estimated that 90 percent of those who die by suicide suffer from a mental illness at the time of death. It is so important that those who need mental health care have access. Often, their life literally depends on it.
What else should OK Policy’s readers know about you?
I debated during my junior high and high school years. It is one of the best things I could have ever done for myself. It introduced me to the world of policy, both domestic and foreign, and taught me to think objectively. It also led me down the path to a degree in Political Science, where I learned about non-profit work.
I also lived in Europe in my very late teens/early twenties, which was an extremely formative time for me. I love to travel and believe that experiencing new cultures was essential to my growth as a person. I was able to visit the different cultures I learned about in school and apply some of the skills and diplomacy I learned in debate. All of my experiences combined have turned me into a fierce-yet-ever-optimistic advocate for those in need.