The Steinberg Institute brings a unique understanding of state politics and public policy. Our top priorities include:
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 helping launch 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 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-Assemblyman 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 mental health services across California.
Maggie serves as a powerful voice for brain health issues in her advisory capacity to a number of key statewide commissions. She sits on two committees helping inform the California Future Health Workforce Commission, charged with helping address debilitating gaps in the state’s health care workforce, and is a member of the “No Place Like Home” committee overseeing the rollout of legislation to generate $2 billion for supportive housing for homeless people living with 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. She 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.
Adriana Ruelas has worked in California’s legislative and public policy arena for almost two decades, helping forge policy from key leadership roles, including as a legislative chief of staff, legislative director and as a policy analyst for state agencies. Before joining the Steinberg Institute, Adriana served as Legislative Director for former Senator Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, as well as Chief of Staff for two former members of the state Assembly: Assemblymember Joe Coto, D-San Jose; and Assemblymember Sarah Reyes, D-Fresno. In addition, she has served as a legislative coordinator and analyst for two large and complex state agencies: the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control; and California Department of Insurance.
Adriana’s experience includes working cooperatively on legislative and regulatory matters with representatives of all levels of government; working with community groups and constituents to devise and enact legislation; advising the Executive Office on legislation and action plans; and directing diverse legislative staff toward a shared strategic vision. Adriana has policy expertise in an array of public policy areas, including law enforcement, local governance and Proposition 64 (the 2016 Adult Use of Marijuana Act).
Adriana grew up in Placer County and is a graduate of California State University, Chico. She is married with three young children.
Adrienne Shilton is a recognized expert in mental health policy who has devoted her career to improving the well-being of people living with brain illness and substance use disorders. Adrienne became involved in mental health policy as a key staff person in the campaign to pass the 2004 Mental Health Services Act. 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 served as an adviser on a number of statewide efforts, and currently sits on a task force examining mental health issues in California’s LGBTQ community. She 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.
Zach Weiss has been involved in mental health for a decade. Most recently, Zach worked at the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) and then Mindstrong, Inc. as a Project Coordinator and Program Manager respectively.
Zach’s experience includes working as a Senior Field Instructor at Evoke Therapy Programs, leading adolescents and young adults with varying comorbid diagnoses including anxiety, depression, personality disorders, and substance use through the Utah wilderness. He also served as a Milieu Coordinator at the Sage Anxiety Treatment Center helping with research, business management, and process improvement. Additionally, Zach provided research support at the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research on the Men and Providers Preventing Suicide (MAPS) study.
Zach grew up in Charlottesville, VA and graduated from Haverford College in 2009.
Katie Lucas has more than 10 years of experience working in California public policy. From 2006-2009, Katie worked as Government Relations Director for the Girl Scout Councils of California, representing over 230,000 Girl Scouts before all levels of state government. Prior to her work with the Girl Scouts, she was a legislative analyst for Rees & Associates, a Sacramento lobbying firm. For a brief period, she owned and operated her own lobbying firm, Lucas Advocacy.
Katie is passionate about the Steinberg Institute’s mission of advancing sound public policy and inspiring leadership on issues of brain health.
Katie is a Sacramento native and a graduate of Sacramento State with a degree in government. She is a proud mother of three young daughters.