Captain Karen Hearod, MSW, LCSW

Captain Karen Hearod, MSW, LCSW
Office of Tribal Affairs and Strategic Alliances
Captain Karen Hearod, MSW, LCSW

Current Role

Captain Karen (Kari) Hearod, MSW, LCSW, is the director of the Office of Tribal Affairs and Strategic Alliances (OTASA) within CDC’s Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support. In this role, she coordinates CDC programs and policies that benefit or affect American Indian/Alaska Native populations. OTASA is the primary link between CDC, the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, and tribal governments. OTASA’s activities focus on fulfilling CDC’s supportive role in ensuring that American Indian/Alaska Native communities receive public health services that keep them safe and healthy.


Before joining CDC, Captain Hearod worked for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), where she served as the regional administrator for Region 6 (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas). SAMHSA is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities. In her role as regional administrator, Captain Hearod supported stakeholders through technical assistance and promoted program development, policy innovation, and system transformation.

Before joining SAMHSA, she served as the Indian Health Service (IHS) Oklahoma City Area acting behavioral health consultant. She oversaw behavioral health programs across Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas, providing services impacting more than 410,000 Native American people. She also chaired the IHS National Zero Suicide Advisory Committee and served on the National Suicide Crisis Policy Committee, working to establish the first IHS National Suicide Care Policy.

Captain Hearod is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation and previously served as the chief behavioral health officer for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. There, she led the creation of the Choctaw Nation Wind Horse Treatment Center, which provides family-centered substance abuse prevention and treatment services.


She received her master of social work from the University of Oklahoma and her bachelor of social work from East Central University. She is a licensed clinical social worker and is pursuing a graduate certificate in global health engagement from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

Page last reviewed: June 2, 2021