OK Policy adds mental health fellows and policy analyst to launch new initiative

For Immediate Release

TULSA, Okla. — With three new hires, Oklahoma Policy Institute has launched the Oklahoma Mental Health Policy Fellowship, a new initiative supported by the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation.

The fellowship emerged out of an April 2018 report on improving mental health and wellness in Tulsa, published by the Urban Institute and developed by the University of Tulsa Oxley College of Health Sciences, as well as individuals and representatives from local agencies. The report recommended building intellectual capacity around mental health and wellness in the Tulsa community.

“These additions to our team will greatly expand our work on mental health issues across Tulsa and Oklahoma,” said Carly Putnam, Policy Director for OK Policy. “Strong mental health is essential for a good quality of life, but Oklahoma still ranks among the worst in the nation on many measures of mental health. We’re glad to be able to increase the focus on this issue that is sorely needed for Tulsa and all of Oklahoma.”

OK Policy has hired Lauren Turner, LMSW, as a mental health policy analyst to lead the organization’s work in that area, as well as to oversee the Fellowship program. Turner is a native Tulsan who has spent all of her career working in social services in Northeastern Oklahoma, including work in inpatient and outpatient mental health settings, the HIV/AIDS community, and anti-trafficking efforts in the Tulsa area. She was a research assistant and a Knee Center for Strong Families Scholar at the University of Oklahoma. She received a bachelor’s degree in Family and Human Services from John Brown University in 2010 and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Oklahoma in 2016. Turner became a Licensed Master Social Worker in July 2016.

Also joining OK Policy are two fellows who will be the inaugural class of the Oklahoma Mental Health Policy Fellowship. The Fellowship is a two-year, full-time program for early-career professionals from a variety of professions. Fellows commit to a course of study and practice that prepares them to advocate throughout their careers for public policies that improve mental health in Oklahoma. Fellows will learn from OK Policy staff as well as from a professional or academic mentor.

The new fellows are:

  • Maggie den Harder, a recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa MPA program, who will be mentored by Dr. Jason Beaman, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Oklahoma State University-Center for Health Sciences. Maggie previously worked as an OK Policy Outreach and Development Associate and as a consultant for the City of Tulsa, where she wrote the content for Resilient Tulsa, an action-oriented strategy designed to better equity in the city.
  • Brittany Hayes, a recent University of Tulsa Law School graduate, who will be mentored by Dr. Gerard Clancy, President of the University of Tulsa. Brittany’s previous policy work and advocacy experience includes time with the Community Advocacy Clinic, Immigrant Rights Project, and Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office.

Hayes and den Harder will serve as fellows for two years. Fellows for the second class will be selected in the summer of 2019.

The new positions bring OK Policy’s full-time staff to seventeen. The organization has also recently added staff for projects including Open Justice Oklahoma and KIDS COUNT. You can find staff bios for all of OK Policy at https://okpolicy.org/staff/.

“Our recent growth is thanks to the support of foundations and people throughout Oklahoma who understand the importance of credible information and policy development for a strong state, as well as recognizing the multiple and connected challenges Oklahoma faces to ensure healthy communities and strong families,” said David Blatt, Executive Director of Oklahoma Policy Institute. “We are grateful for this support and are moving quickly to deepen our work on mental health, criminal justice, education, and children’s issues.”

OK Policy recently celebrated its ten year anniversary as an independent non-profit. The organization promotes adequate, fair, and fiscally responsible funding of public services and expanded opportunity for all Oklahomans through data-driven research and advocacy. Learn more about OK Policy at https://okpolicy.org/who-we-are/.


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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