Colorado: Governor Polis Announces New Behavioral Health Administration Commissioner

DENVER ~ In a press conference held today, Governor Jared Polis announced the appointment of Dannette R. Smith as the new Commissioner of the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) in Colorado. This decision comes as part of the governor's ongoing efforts to expand access to quality behavioral healthcare for all Coloradans.

Governor Polis expressed his confidence in Smith's ability to lead BHA, stating that she has been a strong advocate for accessible behavioral healthcare throughout her 30-year career. He also thanked Michelle Barnes, who has been serving as Interim Commissioner, for her dedication and commitment to helping Colorado achieve its goals.

The appointment of Commissioner Smith was informed by extensive stakeholder feedback from across the state and reflects Governor Polis' commitment to bringing transformational change to Colorado's Behavioral Health System. In her new role, Smith will focus on increasing access to quality behavioral health services by engaging diverse community groups and providers, as well as recruiting and retaining a talented workforce.

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Commissioner Smith will officially begin her role on March 18, 2024, at which time Interim Commissioner Michelle Barnes will return to her position as Executive Director of the Department of Human Services.

In a statement, Commissioner Smith expressed her excitement about joining Governor Polis' administration and using her experience to continue expanding services in Colorado. She also emphasized her commitment to breaking down barriers to care and bringing the governor's vision for a "Colorado For All" to life.

With 30 years of experience serving families, children, the aging population, and people experiencing homelessness, Commissioner Smith brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her new role. She has previously led human services departments in various states and most recently served as Chief Executive Officer at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

During her time in Nebraska, Commissioner Smith made significant strides in improving behavioral health services for adults and children. She also initiated efforts to explore Medicaid utilization as a payer for these services and oversaw the redesign of the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center system to include intensive clinical and therapeutic services.

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Commissioner Smith's dedication to improving behavioral health services has not gone unnoticed, as she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Public Human Services Association in 2023. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University and a Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois Chicago. Additionally, she has completed the Kennedy School of Government's Child Welfare Executive Leadership Program at Harvard.

With Commissioner Smith at the helm, it is clear that BHA will continue to make significant strides in expanding access to quality behavioral healthcare for all Coloradans. Her leadership and expertise will undoubtedly help bring Governor Polis' vision for a more inclusive and accessible healthcare system to fruition.

Filed Under: Government, State

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