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Cathy Costello

Born and raised in Overland Park, Kansas, Cathy graduated from the University of Kansas. A former Educator, Cathy also has 40+ years of business experience, building both domestic and international businesses to success. With a resume including business operations from construction to telephony and software, Cathy has a broad based understanding of workforce and employer needs, and how to grow opportunities to set the stage for success for Oklahomans!

She traveled to Washington D.C. to advocate for mental health reform, encouraging federal legislators to vote for the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” which passed in the House and Senate in 2016.

Background

While a Junior at K.U., Cathy met “The Right Fellow,” Mark Costello at church, a handsome young man 3 years her senior from Bartlesville, Oklahoma. They fell madly in love and were engaged three weeks later. Married for nearly 34 years, Cathy and Mark have raised their 5 children in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Knowing her parents did not have the means to send her to college, Cathy began working at the age of 15, saving every penny for tuition. An entrepreneur in her own right, she started and owned her first business before she met Mark Costello. That business helped put her through college. Cathy learned at an early age that hard work affords its own reward. She held as many as three jobs at a time while going to school, and did not own a car until she was 22 years old.

During the early years, Cathy worked in education in Texas and Oklahoma. Shortly after her marriage, Cathy and Mark started their first business together with a card table and two folding chairs. Cathy set and confirmed appointments, handled the books and was the janitor! Cathy knows first-hand what it takes to create and grow business. She and her late husband worked hand-in-hand to develop and launch 8 businesses in 6 industries across the world.

Cathy has direct experience from marketing to cold calls, to advertising, to crafting policies, procedures and business plans. Years of entrepreneurial expertise has provided her with a broad understanding of policy needs that will serve the needs of employees, their families and the needs of business owners.

In 2009, with Cathy’s support, Mark pursued a lifelong desire to run for public office. In 2010, Mark was elected as the Oklahoma State Labor Commissioner. In 2014, he was re-elected for his second term. Cathy was Mark’s partner and personal advisor, discussing the operations and challenges at the Department of Labor on a daily basis.  Mark loved his job and loved serving the people of Oklahoma. He was also an excellent and faithful husband, loving father and dedicated Christian.

But the greatest challenge that faced the Costello’s was the devastating mental illness that befell their second oldest child. For the past 10 years, their son has suffered with diagnosed schizophrenia with psychosis.

 

On August 23rd, 2015, after a quiet summer dinner at a local restaurant, during a paranoid, delusional psychotic break, their son Christian inexplicably stabbed his father to death. Mark died in Cathy’s arms.

Since her husband’s death, Cathy has become a frequent public speaker traveling the state and the country to share her very personal and heartbreaking story, appearing on national and local radio and television including NPR and Sirius XM radio in New York City.

After testifying twice before a senate hearing committee, she was instrumental in the unanimous passing of the Labor Commissioner Mark Costello Act, which provides Assisted Outpatient Treatment to Oklahomans in an on-going mental health crisis. She traveled to Washington D.C. to advocate for mental health reform, encouraging federal legislators to vote for the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” which passed in the House and Senate in 2016.

Besides her national profile, Cathy has addressed thousands of Oklahomans at universities, hospitals, nursing schools, police departments, educators, counselors, doctors and multiple civic groups. Cathy has found a deep common concern among Oklahoma families and businesses – the struggle those who suffer with mental illness and substance abuse encounter daily to stay employed. By invitation, she will be addressing the New Jersey legislature in October ‘17 to present these challenges and her legislative reforms.

Cathy is an advisory board member for the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma; member of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness); State Planning and Advisory Council Member to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse; National Council for Behavioral Health, Oklahoma Behavioral Health Association board member and a committee member for National Catholic Charities Partnership on Disabilities. Cathy has received the Dr. Krishna “Lifting the Stigma” award as well as the “A.C.C.E.S.S. Award” presented by the Oklahoma Council for Exceptional Children and OK-AHEAD.