FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Steven Buck Steps Down as OJA Executive Director, Cabinet Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives
He is leaving to head a long-term care association
OKLAHOMA CITY (FEB. 13, 2020) — Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) Executive Director Steven Buck today announced he is resigning to take a job leading an association representing long-term care facilities. He is also leaving his position on Governor Kevin Stitt’s Cabinet, where he served as secretary of human services and early childhood initiatives. His resignations take effect March 6.
Buck was named OJA’s executive director in February 2016 by the agency’s governing board. Stitt appointed Buck last year as OJA’s executive director after legislation was approved giving the governor the power to appoint the position. The governor also last year appointed Buck to his Cabinet; Buck previously served former Gov. Mary Fallin as secretary of health and human services.
Buck is leaving state government service to be president and executive director of Care Providers Oklahoma. It represents the interests of more than 18,000 residents and 19,000 professionals who work in Oklahoma’s long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living homes and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Under Buck’s leadership, OJA emphasized individualized treatment and education of juveniles in its care. He has beefed up efforts to improve psychological and related services for OJA-operated facilities, which included the hiring of a chief psychologist for the agency. He also succeeded in getting legislative approval for a $46 million project that will replace most of the existing, worn-out buildings at the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center (COJC) in Tecumseh, giving the campus a more therapeutic environment.
“I appreciate the opportunity to serve as OJA’s executive director, working to reduce crime in our state and to empower more of our young people to find success in adolescence and adulthood,” said Buck. “OJA’s work is complex – we must promote public safety and accountability at the same time we build successful, productive members of our communities.
“Our agency is fortunate to have as partners youth services agencies spread across the state and relationships with other organizations that help youth and their families find help early as opposed to awaiting the challenges that surface when the storms of life hit. I am confident OJA will continue to make it a priority to engage as many of our at-risk youth early so that we can continue to make progress in the battle against juvenile crime.”
The governor said he appreciated Buck’s leadership as OJA executive director, and his advice as a member of his Cabinet.
“Secretary Buck has been a dedicated public servant for the State of Oklahoma for 13 years,” said Stitt. “His wisdom and input as my secretary of human services and early childhood initiatives has been invaluable as we work to move the needle in the overall well-being of Oklahomans. Through Secretary Buck’s strong leadership and vision, he has also led the OJA through transformational changes that focus on improving services and outcomes for our at-risk youth, both in and out of the juvenile system. Secretary Buck’s heart for our young Oklahomans is evident, as he worked each day to provide juveniles in the system with the care and attention needed to return to their homes, schools and society. I appreciate his commitment to our great state, and I look forward to seeing his continued impact as he begins this new chapter.”
As OJA’s executive director, Buck is responsible for the overall management of the agency's operated and contracted programs and services. He works directly with the agency's governing board to facilitate agency priorities, planning and operational performance.
Karen Youngblood, chair of OJA’s nine-member board, said she appreciated Buck’s service.
“It’s been a pleasure working with Steve as we steered the agency toward policies recognizing that rehabilitation and redemption can enhance public safety while at the same time reduce crime and incarceration rates,” said Youngblood, who has served on the board since January 2017. “I also appreciate his enthusiasm in working with community partners and other agencies who shared our commitment to help our young people find success as they deal with the consequences that brought them into contact with OJA.”
As secretary of human services and early childhood initiatives, Buck is responsible for 34 agencies, boards and commissions, including the Department of Human Services and OJA.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity provided by Governor Stitt to serve as a member of his Cabinet and as director of the Office of Juvenile Affairs,” Buck said. “I enjoyed working on behalf of the governor to improve collaboration between state agencies, nonprofit organizations and other partners to improve the social, emotional and physical well-being of our young children and full-life engagement for others. I am optimistic the healthy development, education, employment preparation and productive community engagement for our young people will continue to be a priority of the governor.”
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. Prior to that, he worked 10 years for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness in multiple roles, including national director of state policy and executive director of NAMI Oklahoma.
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.
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 and he earned a master of arts in administrative leadership from the University of Oklahoma.
Office of Juvenile Affairs Executive Director Steven Buck