50 Making a Difference Profile: Terri L. White, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Article excerpt

Her predecessor calls Terri White a "real champion of the people."

As the youngest commissioner in the history of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), the 33-year-old White's goal is to lead Oklahoma to become the first state in the nation where everyone with a mental illness or addiction has the opportunity to recover and lead a full and productive life.

"I can say that Ms. White is the one person I would choose to work with to tackle the most daunting challenges facing our country," said Terry Cline, former ODMHSAS commissioner and Oklahoma Secretary of Health and a current presidential appointee working with individuals across the country. "Her leadership, unflagging energy, persistence in the face of adversity and commitment to social justice are unparalleled."

White joined the department in 2001 as a management analyst after serving as a policy analyst and fiscal analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. She quickly moved up the ranks and was named to her current position in March. She has a bachelor's degree in social work with a minor in psychology and zoology and a master's of social work from the University of Oklahoma.

"When I think of what has defined my career choices, my priority has always been to focus on areas where I can make a difference...where I can help people. There is no greater need than in the behavioral health arena. These issues have been neglected and overlooked for so long, yet they have such a profound effect on all of our lives. What I am doing now is exactly what I want to be doing," she said.

White is a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and serves on the board of visitors for the University of Oklahoma School of Social Work. …


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