Growing up in Kansas near the Oklahoma Panhandle, Michael Brose saw firsthand the struggles of rural residents to find quality health care.
Later, in two decades as executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tulsa, Brose observed similar problems with urban residents’ access to affordable care for mental illness and substance abuse.
Today, Brose is using his experience in those two settings to carry out a new, broader mission for his advocacy organization. In April, the Mental Health Association in Tulsa renamed itself the Mental Health Association Oklahoma. That change occurred after the Mental Health Association of Central Oklahoma in Oklahoma City closed its doors.
MHA Oklahoma, based in Tulsa, is now the state’s most prominent nonprofit to focus on mental health services beyond the local level. The need is great: Oklahoma’s rate of mental illness ranks among the highest in the nation, and funding for health services is limited.
In an interview with Oklahoma Watch, Brose discussed the association’s plans for expansion; efforts to help the homeless, teens and veterans, and how to prevent suicide. The interview has been edited and condensed.
You now lead an organization for the entire state. Does that mean you will be offering your services for the mentally ill in every part of Oklahoma?
It’s a step-by-step approach. We’ve always served the Tulsa metro area. The next step is to develop systems that will primarily be targeting Oklahoma City and central Oklahoma areas that will include Norman. I spoke and met with people in Stillwater not too long ago. Ultimately, we want to serve the whole state. Before the expansion, we consulted and worked with contacts in central Oklahoma and around the state in rural areas. We’ve become a member of the United Way of Central Oklahoma, so we’re members of both United Ways (Tulsa and Central Oklahoma).
One of the most exciting things about expanding in other parts of the state is meeting people. We’re all Oklahomans and have similar needs. We’ve had this long history of this dichotomy between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and we’re really about doing our part to break down those barriers.