Tulsa’s Super Hero for Super People Earns Award for Serving Clients in Need

Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo
ALL SMILES: Casey Adkins-Bakhsh displays her Super Hero for Super People award at the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofit Vision award event in Oklahoma City.

For more than 20 years, Casey Adkins-Bakhsh has pursued her passion for embracing and serving HIV-positive clients at Tulsa CARES social services organization located at 3712 E. 11th St.
Adkins-Bakhsh, holding a master’s in Social Work from the University of Oklahoma, received the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofit Vision leadership award recognizing her unique tools of social work, including compassion and uplifting enthusiasm for those whose lives with HIV meant imminent death in the past but currently appreciate the infection as a chronically-managed disease of hope.

Tulsa CARES’ low-income clients that number over 1,100 a year continue to require support for their needs through the organization that was founded in 1991, through the input and outreach of the Evergreen Health Coalition, as a community response to a growing need for social work-coordinated HIV/AIDS support. Low-income clients of the Tulsa region and 23 counties of Northeastern Oklahoma are served by Tulsa CARES and its various professionals that include Adkins-Bakhsh, whose title is Chief Programs Officer, Dr. Marianna Wetherill, and many other HIV-wellness experts.

Of her prestigious award, Adkins-Bakhsh stated, “I’m honored and am fortunate to have spent the last 21 years engaged in social working for a community that embraced Tulsa CARES’ mission early on and I continue to value compassion, inclusion and innovation in meeting the needs of some of the most vulnerable and marginalized.” She has led the development of a “whole person” care model for people undergoing Hapatitis C treatment in Oklahoma, including integration of “hope theory” and trauma-informed care to engage clients in harm reduction and self-care behavior change. As an HIV psychotherapist for the last seven years, Adkins-Bakhsh has developed skills in sexual health education and assisted in the development of Tulsa CARES’ “No shame, no blame, no judgement” philosophy on healthy sexual expression and exploration as a key component of overall wellbeing.

Adkins-Bakhsh’s dedication to social work has led her to other nonprofit organizations where she holds title. She is Chair of Tulsa Fair Housing, engaged in Tulsa’s Human Rights Commission and has operated as a field practicum instructor for college students majoring in Social Science, including their introduction to the efficacy of good nutrition for people with HIV/Hep-C. Her work as Principal Investigator in NIH’s $2.4 million grant, NOURISH-OK, targeted to improving HIV and Hep-C clients’ nutritional health, is the newest practicum for the students and is currently the program of her heart wherein she collaborates with Dr. Wetherill and the research team to conduct a cross-sectional survey to test the conceptual model of food insecurity and insulin resistance, all to engage clients to adapt a “food as medicine” grocery intervention that meets their cultural and household needs, all of which leads to implement and evaluation of the intervention’s impact on participant food security, and health behaviors.

Not only has HIV become a manageable disease for Tulsa CARES’ workers to handle, but continued blessings have come forth for the organization’s social services and personnel as a result of the federal CARES Act of 2020. That legislation, in which Tulsa County Commissioners have directed the funds to the organization, is indeed making it possible for more people like Casey Adkins-Bakhsh to become integral workers to go forth in Tulsa CARES’ excellence in outreach and support for low-income HIV and Hep-C clients.

Casey Adkins-Bakhsh’s motto is: “I use the tools of social work to innovate, empower and inspire, to use my social worker super-power of enthusiasm to infuse fun and levity: sadness, there was, during the time the first clients came to Tulsa CARES, but today there is celebration!