Vanessa Contreras, MPA

Senior Policy Analyst

Vanessa is a senior policy analyst at Healthy Minds Policy Initiative, where she explores and sheds light on efficient — and often little-known — avenues to improve access to behavioral health care in Oklahoma. She is passionate about translating research and data into meaningful insights and recommendations for policymakers across the state. Her recent publications have focused on ways to expand access to school-based mental health services, Medicaid strategies to address housing instability and homelessness, and the impact of new telehealth laws on access to behavioral health care in Oklahoma.

Before Vanessa joined Healthy Minds in 2023, she had a seven-year tenure at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, where she developed a wealth of knowledge about Medicaid policy options and implementation. In her role, she managed high-level policy projects about the state's Medicaid program benefits, including behavioral health, opioid treatment, substance use disorder, clinic services, and managed care. She also conducted extensive research and analysis of policy options and developed and coordinated implementation of policy solutions.

Vanessa also previously interned at the U.S. Department of State, where she played a pivotal role in planning logistics for high-profile diplomatic events. She worked closely with foreign service officers, developing background papers, identifying promising grant applications for a presidential education initiative, and creating social media content for the U.S. Embassy in Cuba.

Vanessa holds a master's degree in public administration and a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Central Oklahoma.