Mark L. O’Brien is a leading advocate and change-maker in trauma, substance use, mental health, and criminal justice. He is the founder and executive director of Trauma Informed, where he designs and leads programs to support trauma survivors and improve the way organizations respond to trauma; founding partner of Springlake Solutions LLC, where he provides strategic consulting to mission-driven organizations working in behavioral health and public safety; adjunct professor of political science at Towson University; assistant instructor at the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center; and a master’s level positive psychology practitioner and posttraumatic growth coach.

Mark previously served as Executive Vice President of Addiction Policy Forum where he led efforts to educate the public, policymakers, families, and patients about the disease of addiction and support those grieving a substance-related loss. He was Baltimore City’s Director of Opioid Overdose Prevention where he managed a high-profile overdose response cited as a model by President Barack Obama. And as the Director of Communications and a Senior Policy Associate at the Legal Action Center, Mark worked with advocates, members of Congress, and White House staff to reduce barriers for people with criminal records and expand access to addiction treatment for those in the criminal justice system. 

Video created and produced by Church of the Nativity.

The common thread through all Mark’s work has been his desire to help others rebuild their lives after loss, find seeds of meaning in their pain, and grow from trauma and adversity, while honoring the reality of hurt in all our lives. His passion for addressing trauma, improving behavioral health, and reforming the criminal legal system comes from his personal experience. 

Laura and Mark in an undated photo.

On February 9, 2008, after a birthday party she planned for him, Mark caused a drunk driving accident that resulted in the death of the woman he loved and planned to spend the rest of his life with.

Mark experienced intense grief, guilt, and trauma, and while Laura’s family forgave him, he was convicted of negligent manslaughter and sentenced to jail time. Using his incarceration as an opportunity to reflect on his mistakes and his desire to honor Laura’s memory, Mark dedicated himself to finding purpose in his pain and loss.

Mark and Maria

In the ensuing years, Mark became one of the nation’s top advocates for criminal justice and addiction policy reform. Seeing the damaging effects of trauma as well as its potential to be a catalyst for positive change, Mark founded Trauma Informed in 2019 to support survivors and improve the way society responds to trauma. Using his personal experience and expertise gained through his Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, Mark supports individuals and groups to thrive after adversity.

In the aftermath of Laura’s death, Mark met his wife, Maria, who had recently lost her father to cancer, and the two bonded over their mutual grief. They married in 2012 and now live in Lutherville, Maryland with their three exuberant children and a goofy pup named Otis. 

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