Steinberg Institute

Our Team

The Steinberg Institute brings a unique understanding of state politics and public policy.  Our top priorities include:

  • Prevention, Early Intervention and Innovation
  • Integrated Care
  • Housing and Homelessness
  • Decriminalization of Brain Illness
  • The Plight of Veterans
  • Crises Care Services

Darrell Steinberg


Mayor and former State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is a powerful and effective advocate for mental health care policy in California. He has a long history of championing policy issues affecting brain health, and has gained the respect and trust of providers, decision-makers, business leaders and advocacy organizations across the state and nation.

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 businesses near the shelter. Then-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, Darrell recognized that an overwhelming portion of homeless suffered from brain illness and did not have access to proper care.

From that point forward, Darrell has worked to bring awareness and solutions for what he calls “the under-attended issue of our time.” As a member of the state Assembly, he authored the 2004 Mental Health Services Act, landmark legislation that now generates $2.2 billion annually for “whatever-it takes” services for individuals with the most severe brain illnesses, as well as innovative programs and research focused on early detection, intervention, and prevention of psychosis and serious mood disorders.

His commitment to improving mental health care has resulted in services that provide integrated care to the homeless. In 2013, as a state senator, Darrell authored SB 82, propelling a major statewide expansion of crisis residential and stabilization beds and mobile crisis capacity. In 2015, continuing his press for change, he established a first-of-its-kind statewide organization, the Steinberg Institute, dedicated to raising the profile of quality mental health care as a critical public policy and civil rights issue.

Maggie Merritt

Executive Director

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.

Patrick Hoge

Communications Director

Patrick Hoge joined the Steinberg Institute after an award-winning journalism career of nearly three decades that included turns at The Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle, and San Francisco Business Times, and a stint writing for magazines.

As a reporter, Patrick wrote vibrantly about a wide variety of subjects involving both the public and private sectors, including crime and public safety in Sacramento County, county government, City Hall, the California State Assembly, and the burgeoning tech sector in the San Francisco region.

Patrick repeatedly wrote over the years about homelessness, particularly involving brain health. Among the earliest stories he produced on the subject was one in 1999 focusing on legislation that Steinberg Institute Founder Darrell Steinberg successfully authored as a freshman Assemblyman that resulted in the first significant expansion of community mental health programs in California in more than a decade.

Patrick has been honored numerous times for his reporting, including a public service award from the California Newspaper Publishers Association for a five-part series exposing abuses within state-licensed group homes for juveniles. Those stories were credited with helping prompt the state Legislature to pass reforms.

Patrick graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in history and humanities with an emphasis in film. He lives in Oakland, CA., with his wife and two children.

Adriana Ruelas

Legislative Affairs Director

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

Government Affairs Director

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.

Katie Lucas
Executive Office Manager

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.