The Steinberg Institute brings a unique understanding of state politics and public policy. Our top priorities include:
Mayor and former State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is California’s strongest public advocate for better mental healthcare. He has a long history of championing policy issues affecting brain health at the local, state, and federal levels of government.
Darrell became passionate about mental health during his time on the Sacramento City Council. In 1997, the City of Sacramento engaged in a lawsuit against Loaves & Fishes, a private charity providing food to the homeless. The free lunches began to draw thousands of homeless people who were seen as a nuisance to local businesses near the shelter. Former Mayor Joe Serna and then Councilmember Steinberg were the only two members to vote against the lawsuit. Upon further investigation into the rapidly increasing homeless population, Steinberg learned that an overwhelming portion of homeless suffered from mental illness and did not have access to proper mental health care.
From this point forward, Darrell has worked tirelessly to bring awareness and solutions for what he calls “the under-attended issue of our time.” Steinberg’s commitment to improving mental health services has served to provide integrated care to the homeless; increase funding of “whatever-it takes” services for individuals with the most severe mental illnesses via Prop 63 in 2004: fund a major statewide expansion of crisis residential and stabilization beds and mobile crisis capacity (SB 82) reducing recidivism by prioritizing mental health assistance to those in crisis; and, now by establishing a first of its kind statewide organization – the Steinberg Institute.
The Steinberg Institute is dedicated to advancing sound public policy and inspiring leadership on the issues of mental health. Since its inception in January 2015, the Institute has been making historic, first-of-its-kind improvements in area’s such as securing $2 billion to provide housing and care to the most vulnerable citizens of our state (No Place Like Home); ensuring high quality mental health care is accessible to students on all public college campuses; ensuring mental health care services follow our foster youth when they are moved from one county to another; working to decriminalize mental illness and infuse funding into prevention and early intervention programs so that our friends and family members receive the care they need prior to finding themselves behind bars or in an emergency department where the care they need is not available; and keeping local, state and federal decision makers informed so that they identify mental health as a top tier priority for themselves in the work they do.
Having gained the respect and trust of providers, decision makers, business leaders and advocacy organizations across the state, the Steinberg Institute stands ready to move forward in our efforts to ensure issues of the brain are addressed as comprehensively and readily as are issues of the body.
Executive Director Maggie Merritt has worked in the public policy arena since 1989. She brings a rich blend of nonprofit, public policy and political campaign experience to her role as leader of the Steinberg Institute.
Before joining the Steinberg Institute in January 2015, Maggie worked for years as a leader and advocate for nonprofit organizations focused on women’s and children’s health, violence prevention, and social justice and civil rights issues. She served as executive director of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District IX (CA), working to advance public policies to benefit the health and well-being of women and their children.
In 2004, Maggie worked alongside then-Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg on the successful Yes on Proposition 63 campaign that imposes a 1 percent tax on personal income over $1 million and funds mental health services across California. The Mental Health Services Act brings in $1.89 billion annually to provide treatment, prevention and early intervention services to adults and children with severe mental illness.
From 1989 to 2001, Maggie served as a legislative staffer in the California Senate and Assembly, focusing primarily on education and health policy.
Maggie holds a degree in sociology, law & society from the University of California, Davis, and is an ICF Professional Certified Coach. She has two married sons and four adorable grandsons.
Adrienne Shilton is a recognized expert in mental health policy who has devoted her career to improving the well-being of people living with mental illness and substance use disorders. Adrienne became involved in mental health policy as a key staff person in the campaign to pass California’s 2004 Mental Health Services Act, the landmark legislation authored by former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who went on to found the Steinberg Institute. In the years since, she has worked in a variety of roles to carry out the vision for services laid out in the law, most recently as director of intergovernmental affairs for the County Behavioral Health Directors Association.
Before joining CBHDA, Adrienne was a senior associate with the nonprofit California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions, and a senior policy analyst with the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies. She has been a champion for culturally relevant program design, incorporating peer support as a crucial piece of recovery, and using evaluation and outcomes-based reporting to drive strategy.
Adrienne has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Knox College, and a master’s degree in public policy and administration from California State University, Sacramento.
Deborah Anderluh joins the Steinberg Institute after more than three decades in journalism. Most recently, she worked as senior editor for investigations and enterprise at The Sacramento Bee, where she oversaw an investigative reporting team and coverage in a range of specialty areas, including environment and water resources, and issues surrounding mental illness and homelessness.
In 2013, Deborah supervised the reporting team that uncovered Nevada’s practice of busing mentally ill patients across state lines, often to cities where they had no family or connections. The yearlong investigation was awarded a George Polk Award for Medical Reporting, the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Deborah previously worked as The Bee’s city editor, its front-page editor, and as an education reporter. Before joining The Bee, she worked as a transportation reporter at the San Jose Mercury News and an education reporter at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. She has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Cornell University, and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Michigan. She is a native of the Chicago area.
Anna joined the Steinberg Institute in June 2015 after having worked as the deputy and policy director for California Coverage & Health Initiatives (CCHI), where she advocated for community-based organizations, ensuring affordable health coverage and access to care for underserved children and families. Prior to her work with CCHI, she served as an intern on the Senate Select Committee on Autism and Related Disorders, chaired by then-state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
In 2010, Anna worked as program coordinator for the American Congress of Ob/Gyns, District IX (CA), where she oversaw grant programs, participated in legislative efforts, and worked to implement an effective quality health improvement campaign in hospitals across California. Anna also has worked in the field of direct service programs for children and adults with mental and behavioral health support needs in schools, the community and residential homes.
She received her degree in psychology from Pacific Lutheran University with an emphasis in applied behavioral analysis.