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.
Our new director of government affairs, Julie M. Snyder, has worked for more than two decades as a legislative advocate and strategist, helping to craft successful legislative, administrative, and ballot initiatives on a wide range of issues including housing, health, climate change, transportation, and homelessness.
Julie served as a staff member in the California legislature for seven years, including two as consultant to the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. She later served as policy director for Housing California for 14 years, working with legislative leaders, department directors, and stakeholders across the political spectrum to secure $5 billion for housing bonds, pass visionary land use-climate change legislation, and influence more than 100 successful bills reducing homelessness and expanding housing opportunities. Most recently, Julie owned a lobbying firm, Equity Advocates, that provided advocacy, coaching, and facilitation services for mission-based organizations.
She grew up in Ventura County and graduated from Occidental College with a degree in American Studies. She lives in Sacramento.
Our new legislative advocate, Barbara Liebert, is an attorney with decades of legal, policy and legislative experience and a deep commitment to the development of policies that support the needs and aspirations of underserved and vulnerable people in California, especially those struggling with mental health challenges.
She served as executive director of the California Health Facilities Financing Authority for eight years, where she helped implement financing programs that helped non-profit and government-run health care systems to serve underserved populations. One of the most important programs she helped implement came out of the Mental Health Wellness Act of 2013, authored by then Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. It set up a statewide grant program to support mobile crisis support teams and crisis intervention and residential treatment programs for people with mental illness.
Barb holds a BA in psychology from UC Berkeley and a JD from Santa Clara University. She lives in Sacramento with her husband, Drew and son, Kaden.
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.
Gracie Amezcua, is a newcomer to the policy field but brings five years of administrative experience at the Hernandez Law office to the Steinberg Institute. She also has developed strong communications and writing skills and contributed freelance articles to Odyssey, an online publication that seeks to create positive social change.
Gracie earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Merced and a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Sussex in England. While attending classes at UC Merced, she got involved with the UNICEF chapter and began researching the war in Yemen, looking at the way it was affecting mothers and their children, fueling their development of depression and anxiety. This research led her to question why people in her Latinx community often stigmatize people with mental illness and are reluctant to talk about mental health issues. It also fueled her determination to be an advocate for mental health and access to care.
Gracie grew up in Madera County and is part of the first generation in her family to graduate from college. She lives in Sacramento.
Supported by Sutter Health and in partnership with The Kennedy Forum, The Steinberg Institute is delighted to host Lauren Finke, the California Fellow for The Kennedy Forum. Lauren’s primary focus includes working with policymakers and mental health and addiction stakeholders to push for legislation that demands and solidifies parity rights and expands mental health and substance use disorder services for Californians.
Lauren’s experience includes legal and legislative analysis as well as state program implementation, with a particular interest in consumer protection and behavioral health. Immediately prior to joining The Kennedy Forum, Lauren was a policy programs analyst for the Judicial Council’s office of Criminal Justice Services where she worked on consumer issues relating to fines and fees as well as the branch’s behavioral health programming. She also served as a subject matter expert for the branch’s program evaluation on related grant programs. Lauren has also held positions at the Berkeley School of Law’s Policy Advocacy Clinic, where she conducted legal and policy research. Prior to policy work, Lauren worked in direct service at the Red Cross, a national civil rights nonprofit, and a refugee resettlement agency. Lauren holds a masters in public policy from the Goldman School at UC Berkeley.
Supported by Sutter Health and in partnership with citiesRISE, The Steinberg Institute is delighted to host Greg Garcia as the citiesRISE’s Youth Engagement Manager. Greg manages citiesRISE’s youth engagement in Sacramento.
Greg is a second generation Filipinx American and child of immigrant parents. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Greg has a background in Psychology, Asian American Studies and a Master’s in Community Counseling.
He has worked over 20 years in the nonprofit sector in both California and Washington specializing in mental health, youth development, youth drug/alcohol counseling, cultural identity building, racial justice, community activism, nonprofit management and philanthropy.
Currently with citiesRISE, Greg manages citiesRISE’s youth engagement in Sacramento. He is most passionate about the intersectionality of racial equity, youth development and mental health.
Most importantly, Greg is a husband and dad to two kids and loves his family very much.