Karen Larsen brings a rich history of public service and proven leadership to the role of the Steinberg Institute’s first Chief Executive Officer. As a natural result of her own life’s experience, her academic training, and the thirty years of recovery she has achieved, she possesses an unwavering passion and extraordinary ability to improve the lives of California’s most vulnerable communities.
Prior to joining the Steinberg Institute, Karen served as the Director of Yolo County’s Health and Human Services Agency, an integrated agency providing social services, public health, mental health, and substance abuse services to the over 212,000 residents of Davis, W. Sacramento, Winters, and Woodland. Prior to her work at the county, Karen spent 20 years caring for uninsured, undocumented, and underserved people in community clinics and non-profit agencies. Her commitment to integrating care has not only ensured people receive the care they need but has exponentially improved the outcomes for those who have both a behavioral health challenge and other comorbid physical health conditions. Her leadership has inspired others to build bridges across systems as a mechanism for improving outcomes between health systems, the criminal justice community, school districts, cities, and many other key stakeholder groups and organizations. This innovative model has served as a beacon that has cleared the way for the development of innumerable innovative programs with braided funding streams that maximized services for those in need across the state.
In addition to her work at the local level, Karen has been an active member of many statewide groups engaging in cross-system collaboration to address all determinants of health, including the California Welfare Directors Association and California Behavioral Health Directors Association where she co-chaired the Children’s Committee and Criminal Justice Committee. Karen also plays a leadership role on the Child Welfare Council as the co-chair of the Behavioral Health Committee; on the CalAIM Foster Care Model of Care Workgroup; and, as a member of California’s Department of Health Care Services’ Behavioral Health Stakeholder Advisory Committee. She also is a member of the California Health and Human Services Behavioral Health Task Force.
Karen is the mother of three children and a rescue dog. She has a long-term partner, is a member of the LGBTQ community, and is a long-time resident of Sacramento. Her self-care strategies include daily walks, a gallon of water a day, and gardening.
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 Chief Operating Officer for the Steinberg Institute.
Maggie worked alongside Darrell Steinberg to launch the institute and served as the organization’s inaugural executive director from 2015-2022. Prior to this she worked for years as a leader and advocate for nonprofit organizations focused on women’s and children’s health, violence prevention, and social justice issues. From 2005-2010, 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-Assemblymember Darrell Steinberg on the successful Yes on Proposition 63 campaign that enacted the Mental Health Services Act, a 1 percent tax on personal income over $1 million to bolster funding for public mental health services across California which currently brings in over $3.8 billion annually.
Maggie serves as a powerful voice for brain health issues in her advisory capacity to a number of key statewide commissions. She has served on the California Future Health Workforce Commission’s Behavioral Health Advisory Committee, charged with helping address debilitating gaps in the state’s health care workforce; is an appointed member of the California Department of Housing and Community Development’s “No Place Like Home” advisory committee overseeing the implementation of legislation sponsored by the institute that leveraged $2 billion in bonds for permanent supportive housing for people living with a serious mental illness who are homeless or at great risk of becoming homeless; and, she’s been a long-standing member of the Department of Health Care Services’ Behavioral Health Advisory Committee.
From 1989 to 2001, Maggie served as a legislative staffer in the California Senate and Assembly, focusing primarily on education and health policy. She holds a degree in sociology, law & society from the University of California, Davis, and is an ICF Professional Certified Coach. She has two sons, four adorable grandsons, and one precious granddaughter. Her self-care activities include yoga, outdoor adventure, a good clean diet, and photography.
Jason is an award-winning storyteller who brings a passion for connecting with audiences in new ways. He has had many roles in journalism – television reporter, producer, instructor and digital communication leader.
His work has made him familiar with the importance of mental health policy in California. In 2011 he produced Critical Condition: California’s Emergency Rooms for KVIE Public Television. The documentary highlighted the impact of mental health funding cuts on health care providers. He also was a producer for the documentary A New State of Mind: Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness.
For ten years Jason traveled the world capturing stories about American agriculture for the program America’s Heartland and was honored to get an exclusive tour of the White House Kitchen Garden from First Lady Michelle Obama in 2010.
Prior to joining the Steinberg Institute, Jason was managing editor for the McClatchy Video/Audio team, bringing new content to audiences across the country. He has won three regional EMMY Awards for his work as a producer and executive producer. An Iowa native, he graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and minor in political science.
Jason serves on the board of directors for My Sister’s House, an organization serving Asian and Pacific Islander and other underserved women and children impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. He lives with his wife and two children in the Sacramento area.
Tara is a San Francisco native coming to Sacramento by way of Boston. Coming up in local politics Tara always planned on returning to her hometown after finishing up her master’s degree. But after a well-timed internship and class on lobbying in graduate school, she began to look north towards Sacramento. Before coming to the Steinberg Institute, Tara worked on issues related to economic justice, housing, homelessness, and human services — all with deep connections to mental health. Most recently, Tara worked as a legislative staffer in the Assembly.
Passionate about mental health, she is excited to center that issue in her work while bringing an intersectional lens rooted in her previous experience
Tara holds a BA in political science from UC Berkeley and an MPP from Harvard University.
Corey Hashida is a public policy enthusiast deeply interested in the intersection between analysis and advocacy. He strongly believes in the importance of empathy in policymaking.
Prior to joining the Steinberg Institute, Corey spent three years working for the nonpartisan California Legislative Analyst’s Office. In this role, he advised the state legislature on fiscal and policy issues related to a variety of health care topics, including brain health. He also has professional experience in several other areas, including providing direct services and instruction to young adults with various developmental disabilities.
A San Francisco Bay Area native, Corey is an avid fan of Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics and is fluent in American Sign Language. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in economics from the University of California, Irvine and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Southern California. He loves his cat, Suki, very much.
Carmen was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. She immigrated to the US when she was nineteen and made California her home ever since. She has seen and experienced how access to basic human needs or even one’s cultural background, impedes the important role mental health has to a person’s quality of life.
Having been an administrative professional for over 20 years, Carmen’s experience has given her the opportunity to work across different sectors and industries. Her past roles included managing a small nonprofit counseling agency, to helping establish office operations for a Silicon Valley tech start up. Carmen has served as a top-level executive assistant to CEOs, hedge fund managers, and business owners. Her transition back to the mental health landscape, is a deep-seated passion to make a positive impact on the lives of those who are most vulnerable in our communities.
Carmen holds a BS degree in Business Administration. She lives in Sacramento County with her husband, Sonny; and has two kids out of college.