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 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 substantially increased funding 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.
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 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 nearly $2 billion annually to provide treatment, prevention and early intervention services to adults and children with severe brain illness.
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; 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; and is a member of Leading the Way, a broad coalition of health care organizations, service providers, state and local agencies, and advocacy groups working in partnership to improve California’s mental health delivery system.
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.
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.
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. Among other roles, she sits on a task force examining mental health issues in California’s LGBTQ community, and is a member of the Leading the Way coalition.
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.
Jessica joined the Steinberg Institute after working for the California State Senate for nearly eight years. During her time in the Senate, she was a key staffer in the Engrossing and Enrolling office, where she gained a comprehensive knowledge of the legislative process. Jessica became well-versed in the state budget, along with other benchmark legislation while proofreading all Senate measures, and was integral in the auditing and archiving of Senate bills and resolutions.