About the Association

About Mental Health Association Oklahoma

Our Mission

Mental Health Association Oklahoma is dedicated to promoting mental health, preventing mental disorders and achieving victory over mental illness through advocacy, education, research, service and housing.

Our Vision 

Mental Health Association Oklahoma envisions a just, humane and healthy society in which all people are accorded respect, dignity and the opportunity to achieve their full potential, free from stigma and prejudice.

How It All Began

We trace our roots to the early part of the 20th century, when the father of the mental health movement in America, Clifford Beers, helped form the National Mental Health Association in 1909.

The rallying symbol of the mental health movement is a bell. The symbol replicates a 300-pound bell that was cast from the shackles and chains once used to restrain people with mental illnesses within the walls of psychiatric institutions. The inscription on the bell reads: “Cast from the shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.” Since the mid-1950s, we have worked to achieve this goal here in Oklahoma.

In 1955 local advocates formed Mental Health Association Oklahoma (originally known as the Tulsa County Mental Health Council). We have been certified as an affiliate of the National Mental Health Association continuously since our inception. In 1958 we became a member of the Tulsa Area United Way. In 2014, soon after the Association expanded to become a statewide agency, we became a partner agency of the United Way of Central Oklahoma.

Where We Are Today

The Association continues to grow and expand as a statewide agency advocating for Oklahomans impacted by mental illness and homelessness.

We are dedicated to promoting mental health and the equity of access to mental health care through advocacy, education, research, service, and housing. The Association currently owns and manages 1,469 units of affordable housing in Tulsa and 72 units in Oklahoma City.

Our programs include housing, mental health education, support groups, pro bono counseling, mental health screening and referral, suicide prevention, peer-to-peer recovery services, employment readiness, community health and wellness initiatives, and criminal justice advocacy. Our housing program utilizes a Housing First model that provides immediate access to safe, decent, and affordable housing for individuals impacted by mental illness, homelessness, substance abuse, and criminal histories. While fragmented systems of care struggle to meet the complex needs of these individuals, our mission is designed to greatly reduce barriers to accessing affordable housing and mental health care in one collective effort. We believe our housing program and wrap-around services position us to begin meeting the mental health care needs of the most vulnerable members of our community.

For more than 60 years, we have worked toward this goal. We have fought for essential access to community-based services. We have stood side-by-side in the face of tragedy and despair. We have leaned on each other through support groups and pro bono counseling services.

Together, we have watched individuals overcome incredible hardships to flourish, grow and succeed.

Want to learn more about the Association? Call us at 918.585.1213 or 405.943.3700. You can also email us at info@mhaok.org.

To truly understand where the Association came from and where we are going, check out this timeline that explains how we have built a history working alongside advocates to promote recovery for people with serious mental illness.


May 21

Council on Accreditation

Council on Accreditation
In May 2018, the Association officially received accreditation from the Council on Accreditation (COA). The COA process helped guide the process of establishing standards and best practices that will enable the Association to provide even more effective and quality-driven services and programs across the state.
March 31

A New Headquarters in Tulsa

A New Headquarters in Tulsa
In 1992 we purchased our main office at 1870 S. Boulder Avenue in Tulsa. At the time, the Association had only five employees and the building was larger than needed, resulting in us leasing the second floor to other businesses. The current location has served us well for over 20 years, but we’ve outgrown it now that we are a statewide organization. The Association’s new offices will be located at 31st Street Plaza, which is located on 31st Street between Yale and Sheridan. The towers, which were formerly known as the Dollar Thrifty complex, offers the Association room for expansion, expanded conference…
July 1

Launching Housing in Oklahoma City

Launching Housing in Oklahoma City
Together with the Homeless Alliance, we were recipients of the largest grant in the history of the United Way of Central Oklahoma. The $1.2 million grant helped us implement Pathways, a specialty case management system that helps people experiencing homelessness into housing and connect them to critical services in the community. This was a big step towards ultimately expanding our housing programs into Oklahoma City.
July 19

National Spotlight for Recovery Services

National Spotlight for Recovery Services
The Association’s Recovery Services department was among the three programs chosen from across the country to be featured in the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) instructional video on evidence-based peer-to-peer services. This video was filmed as a critical educational tool to help other organizations and communities across the country learn the importance of tirelessly working one-on-one with those in need to identify their specific needs and walk side-by-side with them to secure services as they rebuild their lives.
January 2

Ending Homelessness

Ending Homelessness
Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Norman were among the 75 elite cities chosen to participate in the national Zero: 2016 initiative to end chronic and veteran homelessness. Today, Built for Zero (formerly Zero: 2016) is a rigorous national change effort working to help a core group of committed communities end veteran and chronic homelessness. Coordinated by Community Solutions, the national effort supports participants in developing real time data on homelessness, optimizing local housing resources, tracking progress against monthly goals, and accelerating the spread of proven strategies.
October 6

A Home for Transition Age Youth

Teenage girl is a mental health success story
Our Walker Hall Transitional Living Center went from offering a safe place to live for adults to focusing on transition age youth ages 18-24 impacted by homelessness or mental illness. There are many young people who “age out” of foster care or end up on the streets for a number of different reasons, with no home or support. Transitioning the focus of Walker Hall toward housing for youth reflected our ongoing efforts to meet this need in the community.
September 18

Maxine and Jack Zarrow Advocacy Center

We launched the Maxine and Jack Zarrow Advocacy Center designed to develop policy and advocacy directives at the local, state and federal levels. We now have a regular presence at the Capitol to shape the landscape of the Advocacy Center to achieve its mission and vision.
April 1

Statewide Expansion

Statewide Expansion
Mental Health Association in Tulsa expanded statewide and changed its name to Mental Health Association Oklahoma. The statewide expansion was necessary after our longtime counterpart, Mental Health Association of Central Oklahoma, closed its doors in Oklahoma City. We now offer a peer-run drop-in center in Oklahoma City, as well as free support groups, SunBridge and TeenScreen. This helped us make great strides toward ultimately expanding our housing and services into Oklahoma City.
March 30

Carnivale Sets Fundraising Record!

Carnivale Sets Fundraising Record!
For the first time, our annual gala, Carnivale, raised $1 million to support our housing programs and services. “The best party in town” continues to raise over a million dollars each year. Get all the fun details about Carnivale at www.bestpartyintown.org.
September 20

From Housing to Recovery

From Housing to Recovery
Zarrow Mental Health Symposium hosted its second national conference. We partnered with Mental Health America to address the critical issues of ending homelessness, housing, recovery and community supports for people living with mental illness. As a part of the Symposium, we also worked with Habitat for Humanity and built a home for Gaylia Patrick and her family.
November 2

Oklahoma’s Peer-Run Drop-In Centers

Mental Health Association Oklahoma's Denver House in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s first peer-run drop-in center, Denver House, opened its doors for people impacted by mental illness and homelessness. Today, Denver House maintains a family atmosphere where participants can socialize and connect to services in the community. In October 2013, the Association opened its second peer-run drop-in center, Lottie House, in Oklahoma City.  
April 17

Top Nonprofit in Oklahoma

Top Nonprofit in Oklahoma
The Association was named the best nonprofit in Oklahoma during the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofit’s third annual Oklahoma Nonprofit Excellence Awards.
January 4

The Move from Downtown YMCA to Yale

The Move from Downtown YMCA to Yale
In the aftermath of the Downtown YMCA closing, its tenants were at risk of homelessness. To address this dire issue, a total of 48 tenants at the Downtown YMCA moved into the Association’s new Yale Avenue Apartments on Jan. 4, 2010. More than two dozen of those tenants were a part of our Safe Haven program at the YMCA. On moving day, a new tenant said, “The outside looks like a castle. The inside looks like a hotel.”
January 1

Building Tulsa, Building Lives

Building Tulsa, Building Lives
We launched our largest capital campaign, “Building Tulsa, Building Lives.” It went on to surpass its goals by raising $54 million to purchase 1,127 additional units of housing in Tulsa. This preceded our $12 million “Building Oklahoma, Building Lives” capital campaign. It provided a new administrative home for the Association, added to the Association’s capital reserve fund, and initiated affordable housing for Oklahomans impacted by homelessness and mental illness in Oklahoma City.
May 2

A Night to Shine

A Night to Shine
The inaugural Fashion & Talent Showcase was held in the second-floor conference room at the Association’s main office in Tulsa. The event’s DJ was our own Greg Shinn. Today, the event packs First United Methodist Church for an evening of fashion, music, art, dancing, comedy and inspiration. Ultimately, this one night in May is about building our participants’ self-esteem and proving that recovery from mental illness is possible and happening every day in our community.
March 15

Recovery for Congregations

Recovery for Congregations
Caring for Your Congregation’s Mental Health began in Tulsa offering information and support to help faith leaders minister to the needs of youth, adults, elders and families. We added this event in Oklahoma City at the beginning of 2016 and it now runs under the name of Faith & Mental Health in both areas.
May 4

Addressing Depression as a Community Event

Addressing Depression as a Community Event
The first Charles P. Seger Seminar on Depression brought together people living with mental illness, family members, and professionals to encourage dialogue about depression, suicide prevention, intervention, and surviving the loss of a loved one. The seminar ended in 2013, but we continue to educate Oklahoma about suicide prevention through Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) trainings.  
August 28

Recovery Services is Born

Creating Connections became our first Recovery Services program. In Oklahoma City and Tulsa, our no-cost Creating Connections program empowers participants to engage in community life and enjoy fun outings using a recovery support model for social inclusion. Each month, participants get together to socialize during fun outings, like seeing movies and taking trips to the lake, zoo and aquarium.
February 1

Equal Coverage for Mental Illness

Equal Coverage for Mental Illness
The Oklahoma Legislature passed what’s known as a “partial parity” law, requiring insurers to provide coverage for severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. Maxine and Jack Zarrow, along with John Sullivan, played pivotal roles in the passing of this bill. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act defined mental health and substance abuse treatment as one of 10 essential benefits. Now, health insurance plans must provide equal coverage for mental illness, reversing years of discrimination.
November 10

Addressing Suicide Prevention in Youth

After a cluster of three teen suicides at one school over a 45-day period, the Association partnered with schools, faith communities, and concerned citizens to form the Adolescent Suicide Prevention Task Force. In the aftermath of the tragedy, we began offering our suicide prevention programs, TeenScreen and SafeTeam. TeenScreen was also offered in Oklahoma City by Mental Health Association of Central Oklahoma at the time, and we continue to offer it today in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City.  
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