Healthy Minds expands programming, opens central Oklahoma office

May 4, 2023

Healthy Minds Policy Initiative has expanded its programmatic and geographic footprint to accelerate Oklahoma’s transformation of behavioral health policy and practice.

The addition of four new positions in 2023 brings Healthy Minds’ team to 14 full-time experts, including six who work out of the organization’s new central Oklahoma office.

Healthy Minds’ recent growth and statewide expansion are made possible by its ongoing support from The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, the organization's founding funder, as well as its partnerships with policymakers, community leaders, and new philanthropic partners committed to ending untreated mental illness and addiction in Oklahoma. This growth will also enhance the organization's ongoing work in the Tulsa area, including the coordination of stakeholders to improve outcomes for children, optimizing the city's response to mental health crises, and addressing rising rates of methamphetamine use and overdose.

"Oklahoma has pursued some of the most transformative behavioral health policy reforms and capital investments in the country. Despite the toll of the pandemic, we are on the cusp of breaking through persistent challenges that affect far too many of our family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors.
Healthy Minds' growth is a testament to the vision of our funders and so many leaders in our state dedicated to ensuring Oklahomans have the behavioral health care and prevention services they need, when and where they need them."
Zack Stoycoff, Executive Director

Strengthening Oklahoma’s behavioral health workforce

Despite meaningful progress made during the past three years, the availability of behavioral health professionals falls short of the demand for treatment and prevention services in Oklahoma. The gap between supply and demand is particularly acute in rural communities and among historically underserved populations and is further exacerbated by inadequate coverage for mental health treatment on private insurance plans.

To help close this gap, Healthy Minds has hired Tequia Sier as project director for behavioral health workforce development. A licensed clinical social worker with nearly 20 years of clinical and systems experience, Tequia will implement collaborative strategies to improve Oklahoma’s ability to train, recruit, and retain a quality behavioral health workforce. She most recently worked at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, where she oversaw statewide prevention initiatives for health care and school communities.

"As Oklahoma grapples with record-high mental health need, increasing the availability and accessibility of licensed professionals is a top priority for our state. Healthy Minds has a deep understanding and unique perspective on many of the opportunities for behavioral health workforce development.

With momentum from Healthy Minds’ recent policy successes, I’m excited to help build capacity among our existing providers and create new pathways that grow the workforce even further."

Tequia Sier

Healthy Minds’ new workforce development portfolio is supported by a grant from ProsperOK, a partnership between The Justice and Mobility Fund and the George Kaiser Family Foundation, with additional funding from The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation and the Sozosei Foundation. The primary objectives of this grant include:

  • Developing new and expanded training pathways for behavioral health professionals at higher education institutions
  • Facilitating training partnerships between existing providers, CareerTech, and higher education institutions
  • Equipping providers to meet the unique needs of the communities they serve
  • Expanding the adoption of evidence-based practices for behavioral health care delivered in primary care settings

Empowering central Oklahoma communities

In addition to an enhanced focus on the behavioral health workforce, Healthy Minds is also devoting new resources to community and systems work in central Oklahoma. The organization opened an office in Oklahoma City in April, building on significant progress made in the region from a partnership with the Edmond community. Now entering its third year, Healthy Minds’ work in Edmond has generated more than $5.8 million in new investments for the community’s behavioral health system.

To support the Edmond partnership and other central Oklahoma initiatives, Healthy Minds recently hired two new experts who will work out of the Oklahoma City office.

  • Millie Carpenter (left) joins Healthy Minds as a central Oklahoma community initiatives coordinator. Millie’s 30-year career in public service included multiple leadership roles at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, and her wealth of experience in mental health and child welfare systems will be applied to projects across the region.
  • Vanessa Contreras (right) joins Healthy Minds as a senior policy analyst. Vanessa comes to Healthy Minds after seven years at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and will greatly add to the organization’s policy research on Medicaid funding and financial analysis.

Millie, Vanessa, and Tequia add additional capabilities to Healthy Minds’ growing team, which also includes expertise in policy and systems analysis, epidemiology, data analysis, suicide and overdose prevention, and marketing and communications.  

"With a larger staff and statewide reach, we look forward to establishing new partnerships in central Oklahoma and beyond. There is tremendous momentum in our state for improving mental health outcomes, and plenty of reasons for optimism about the future of behavioral health care in Oklahoma."

Zack Stoycoff