“I’m very hopeful for rural and frontier counties to see more access to services and resources.”

Logan County Commissioner Byron Pelton.

The Behavioral Health Administration, a new cabinet member-led state agency designed to improve mental health care and substance use treatment in Colorado, launched Friday with a virtual community event and press conference.

The launch is the fruition of work started in 2019 by a behavioral health task force that included Logan County Commissioner Byron Pelton. The commissioner was unable to attend Friday’s celebration but said called the new department a good first step.

“The BHA is the first step to improve behavioral health services across the State,” Pelton said. “I’m very hopeful for rural and frontier counties to see more access to services and resources.”

Event speakers focused on the BHA’s values and plans of action, and introduced the BHA Senior Leadership Team, as well as, the newly appointed members of the Behavioral Health Administration Advisory Council. Medlock credited “amazing leadership” in getting the new agency formed.

Dr. Morgan Medlock
Dr. Morgan Medlock

“We stand on the shoulders of amazing leaders who pushed the needle forward inch by inch, and now we finally have the platform to make historic change,” Medlock said. “With Colorado’s support and trust, we will bring to life the needed solutions that have been in the works for decades.”

Pelton said the work was necessary because rural Coloradans in need of mental health resources were being left behind.

“I feel that commissioners across the state saw the immense problem with the behavior health system and wanted to see systematic changes in that system so they were providing services for the people that we represent,” he said. “So many people were left behind in rural and frontier counties because of lack of access to services.”

The event marked the first public appearance by Dr. Morgan Medlock as the new BHA commissioner. Gov. Jared Polis appointed Medlock to the position in January.

“We are showing up and getting personal with the work at hand,” Medlock said. “This is not just about us building a system that is meaningful, accessible, and trusted. It is about building a system that we would want our own family members to be a part of.”

Medlock previously served as the Chief Medical Officer and Director of Crisis and Emergency Services for the Washington, DC Department of Behavioral Health. She also serves on the faculty of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior and Howard University College Of Medicine and has held a previous appointment as a Clinical Fellow in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

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