Honoring 100 for the 100th: Mike Brose

Image of Mike BroseMichael W. Brose, MSW, serves as Chief Empowerment Officer of the statewide advocacy agency Mental Health Association Oklahoma (the Association). Under his leadership, the Association has grown from five employees in 1993 to approximately 170 full and part-time staff members in the Tulsa area and in Central Oklahoma.

As a proud partner agency of both the Tulsa Area United Way and the United Way of Central Oklahoma, Mike has worked to ensure the Association has a reputation for bringing community partners together to tackle difficult issues, including improving access to healthcare, preventing suicide, providing housing and supports for people with mental illness, ending homelessness, and decriminalizing people who are impoverished and/or have a mental illness.

During his early years with the Association, Mike studied national trends in treating mental illness and wondered, “How can you help someone with mental illness without consistent treatment or access to care?” He soon learned that housing was critical to their stability and determined that implementing the Housing First model was crucial to their recovery. With this in mind, and equipped with tenacity and persistence, Mike set out to motivate the Tulsa philanthropic community to actualize his vision.

To rally the community, Mike first convened known mental health advocates and asked for their help. He knew that he needed their support and leadership to kick-start a campaign for housing and to persuade others to join in. Mike knew that collaboration was required to ensure a comprehensive effort and that all of these individuals would have to educate their neighbors, friends and family about mental illness, which was essential to others believing in his vision. One inspiring quality of Mike’s is that he has the ultimate faith in people that once they know what is needed, they will do what is right. And Mike was correct. Thousands of people have come together to grow the Association’s nationally recognized housing and recovery programs. Today, it owns and manages approximately 30 apartment complexes in Tulsa and Oklahoma City for individuals and families, many of whom are impacted by mental illness and homelessness.

Throughout his social work career, Mike has committed himself to teaching, mentoring, and empowering University of Oklahoma School of Social Work practicum students. His unique style ignites the same passion for advocacy he has in others. Mike models to students that when systems fail people impacted by mental illness and homelessness, they shouldn’t be afraid to challenge the system and advocate for more just and dignified systems.

Because of his many contributions to our state, Mike has been inducted into the social work hall of fame at both Oral Roberts University and University of Oklahoma’s Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work.

When Mike heard he would be one of the 100th Honorees, he said, “I am truly taken aback and humbled. To even be mentioned with the other very worthy honorees is a blessing and something I will strive to live up to.”

Michael W. Brose is featured in Mental Health Association Oklahoma’s BetterBox Project series of short documentaries that reveal true stories of people impacted by mental illness and homelessness. The videos can be viewed at www.betterboxproject.org.

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