Steinberg Institute

Here we highlight just a sampling of the crusaders and visionaries whose efforts have helped light the way forward for mental health care in California. The list is far from complete, and we’ll continue to build, bringing you the stories of champions working to transform the treatment landscape and elevate mental health as a public policy priority.

Karen Larsen

Director, Yolo County Health and Human Services Agency

IMPACT: Giving new definition to integrated care

Karen Larsen shines a beacon of innovation from Yolo County, where she has led the Health and Human Services Agency since May 2016, with a special focus on knocking down silos and redefining what it means to provide whole-person, whole-community care.

Karen’s story >

Vic Ojakian

Former Palo Alto mayor; activist

IMPACT: Scaling up suicide prevention

Vic Ojakian lives with the wound of having lost a son to suicide. He knows the ache of loving and missing someone who by all rights should still be at your side.

Vic’s story >

Steve Fields

Executive Director, Progress Foundation

IMPACT: A pioneering force for residential treatment

For half a century, Steve Fields has poured heart, soul, passion and intellect into creating and sustaining a true continuum of community-based care.

STEVE’S story >

Larry Brown

Sacramento Superior Court Judge

IMPACT: A trailblazer for mental health court

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Larry Brown presides over an outstanding example of mental health court.

Judge Brown’s story >

Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola

Director, UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities

IMPACT: Tackling disparities in mental health care for Latino communities

Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola has dedicated his career to identifying and addressing the unmet mental health needs of under-served populations. He has pioneered treatment models that recognize the unique cultural and linguistic needs of different populations, work that has been crucial to bridging disparities in care for Latino and rural communities, in particular.

Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola’s story >

Diane Cummins

Special Adviser to the Governor

IMPACT: Promoting statewide investment in mental health services.

Diane Cummins, Special Adviser to the Governor, has worked tirelessly to create a robust financial foundation for California’s mental health delivery system.

Diane’s story >

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

Founder and CEO, Center for Youth Wellness

IMPACT: Highlighting the psychological impacts of childhood trauma

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris has been a driving force in establishing the science that explains the potentially debilitating effects of adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, on the physical and mental health of growing children.

Dr. Burke Harris’ story >

State Senator Richard Pan

California Senator, District 6

IMPACT: Fostering leadership and oversight in CA’s mental health system

Senator Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, has stepped up to make mental health care a political priority in California and is attacking barriers to quality care with his effective blend of analytical acuity, determination and pointed discussion.

Sen. Pan’s story >

Drs. Cameron Carter and Tara Niendam

Founder/Executive Director, UC Davis Medical Center Early Psychosis Program

IMPACT: Advancing early intervention in psychosis-related illness

Hats off to Dr. Cameron Carter and Dr. Tara Niendam for helping hundreds of young people in the early stages of psychosis-related illness learn not only to manage their brain illness but to thrive.

The story of
Drs. Carter and Niendam >

Dr. Steven Adelsheim

Director, Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing

IMPACT: Reshaping the treatment paradigm for youth mental illness

We are grateful for the work of Dr. Steven Adelsheim, Director of the Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing. Dr. Adelsheim has been a thoughtful and determined champion for early, intensive intervention with young people at risk of brain illness and for integrating those services into school and community settings.

Dr. Adelsheim’s story >

Sally Zinman

Executive Director, California Association of Mental Health Peer Run Organizations

IMPACT: Giving voice to the rights of people living with brain illness

Sally Zinman has forged strength from a place of pain, emerging as a bright and unwavering beacon for the mental health consumer movement.

Sally’s story >

State Senator Jim Beall

California State Senator, District 15

IMPACT: Embracing mental health as a legislative priority

We salute Senator Jim Beall, a San Jose Democrat who for years has claimed mental health as a priority, infusing his legislative efforts with passion and intellect as he has worked to strengthen our safety net of care.

Sen. Beall’s story >

Rusty Selix

Co-author, Mental Health Services Act

IMPACT: An unwavering voice for mental health care reform

The indomitable Rusty Selix is a co-author of the Mental Health Services Act and the former longtime head of the CA Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies. His decades of advocacy have transformed the landscape for mental health treatment in California.

Rusty’s story >