Thursday, November 2, 2017
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today named Steven Buck, the executive director of the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA), to serve as secretary of health and human services on her executive Cabinet.
Buck, who has spent most of his professional career working with mental health agencies and organizations, begins his new duties immediately. His appointment still must be confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate. He will continue to serve as OJA’s executive director.
“Steve has a distinguished career being an advocate for mental health concerns and has an overall knowledge of health issues in our state,” said Fallin. “Steve’s compassion is evident in the excellent job he has been doing heading up the Office of Juvenile Affairs. He will be a strong advocate for those needing our public health services and making sure our state employees have the tools they need to do their job well.”
As secretary of health and human services, Buck will be responsible for about 80 agencies, boards and commissions, including the Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma State Health Department, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSA).
“I am honored by Governor Fallin’s appointment and look forward to assisting the health and human services agencies in their efforts to serve Oklahoma with innovation, compassion, and fiscal responsibility,” Buck said.
Buck has served as OJA’s executive director since February 2016. As executive director, he is responsible for the overall management of the agency's portfolio of operated and contracted programs and services. He works directly with the agency's governing board to facilitate agency priorities, planning and operational performance.
“As a foster, now adoptive parent, my family has received assistance from multiple health and human services agencies,” Buck said. “So I not only bring an administrative familiarity to this position, but a personal perspective of navigating through these systems. My family has experienced first-hand the positive impact they can provide. Conversely, I am also aware of areas where ease of access can be improved and implemented.”
Before joining OJA, Buck served nine years as deputy commissioner for communications and prevention at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS). He directed the agency’s prevention and provider certification initiatives. Prior to that, he enjoyed a 10-year career with NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. During his tenure, he served in multiple capacities, including national director of state policy, national director of state relations, and executive director of NAMI Oklahoma. As national director of state policy, Buck provided oversight and consultation in the area of public policy development to the 50 NAMI state organizations.
Buck has advocacy experience working with multiple state legislatures and has been involved in numerous policy initiatives. His professional career has included collaborative work in the policy areas of mental health, substance abuse, human services, corrections and juvenile justice.
“This opportunity creates a platform to broaden the discussions that accessibility to prevention and early intervention services can significantly curtail our children’s involvement with the juvenile justice system,” Buck said. “The Office of Juvenile Affairs staff and our agency’s provider partners do outstanding work, but far too frequently we end up serving kids that could have been diverted with earlier engagement in the community. My experience at OJA has enhanced my understanding of the importance of early engagement and I look forward to working with the governor, Cabinet colleagues, and policy makers to improve our effectiveness in juvenile justice system diversion.
Buck and his wife, Lisa, have four daughters and two sons. A native Oklahoman, he is a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics. He has completed all course work for a master’s in administrative leadership from the University of Oklahoma, with the thesis remaining.