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The Behavioral Health Administration (BHA), a new state entity to lead, promote and administer the state’s behavioral health priorities beginning July 1, announced the names of five individuals selected to participate in the College for Behavioral Health Leadership’s Equity-Grounded Leadership Fellow Program pilot this spring. The program’s goal is to empower and equip leaders to take bold action to unravel systemic racism and create equitable behavioral health systems in their communities. The five individuals will join a broader cohort of cross-sector leaders from across the country who will spend the next six months providing feedback in real time to refine and co-create this groundbreaking program.
“Equity is at the center of our work as we set up the BHA, and we were thrilled with the tremendous response we received to our request for applications,” said newly appointed BHA Commissioner Dr. Morgan Medlock, who is experienced in developing curricula, as well as writing and teaching about how to achieve health equity for minority communities. “We know we have a lot to accomplish in terms of addressing racism, economic inequality and other structural determinants of health, and we are grateful to our partners for their commitment to ensuring the behavioral health system we create in Colorado truly puts all people in Colorado first.”
The Equity Fellows will each have personal goals and benefit from individualized coaching as they progress through this program. This initiative is designed to empower participants to step into their own communities as change agents for dismantling systemic racism, and to equip them as they take actions to create equitable systems. Each fellow will have the opportunity to learn and apply skills in a collaborative in-person and virtual environment. They will also develop solutions complementary to or in support of existing efforts in their organizations, communities or regions.
The five Equity Fellows are from urban and rural (mountain and plains) communities, and represent a diverse and inclusive group of individuals with experience offering multicultural and gender-affirming care:
Marco Antillon (El Paso County) is a licensed marriage and family therapist who brings lived experience in the intersections of culture/race/privilege/
Brad Barfield (Denver County) is a program manager with Envision:You overseeing programming for queer and questioning youth; LGBTQ+ folks living in rural Colorado; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives; and grant-writing. As a queer biracial person in recovery, Brad is passionate about creating culturally responsive and affirming resources for the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community.
Lesley Brooks, M.D. (Larimer County) is the chief of addiction medicine for SummitStone Health Partners and the assistant medical director for the North Colorado Health Alliance. She is a board-certified family physician and has practiced full-scope family medicine, including prenatal care, chronic pain, and substance use disorder/addiction in Northern Colorado for more than a decade.
Michelle Colarelli, Psy.D. (Pueblo County) has been with the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo for 25 years working with individuals who have concurrent substance abuse and trauma histories. Michelle is passionate about educating providers on culturally responsible practice and cultural humility, as well as the need for strong voices and advocacy within forensic behavioral health.
Alexandra Hulst, Ph.D. (Mesa County) works for Rocky Mountain Health Plans as a clinical program manager specializing in integrated behavioral health, where she has coached more than 40 practices across Western Colorado in best practices to support integrated care. Since 2012, she has provided therapy for individuals, couples and families in various primary and specialty care settings.
The Behavioral Health Administration will be partially operational by July 1 and will be the lead entity, collaborating across state agencies and payers, implementing a transparent and accountable system that ensures Coloradans’ lives are enriched when they interact with our state’s behavioral health system.