5 Things Colorado: Legislators talk health policy, Update from HCPF, DEI in the workforce


Eli Kirshbaum


This week, our team has been busy gearing up to host next Wednesday’s 2021 Colorado State of Reform Health Policy Conference. Take a look at our finalized Detailed Agenda for a glimpse at some of the conversations we have teed up.

With thirteen legislators, six HCPF representatives, and over forty other panelists slotted to speak, this is sure to be an event that health policy stakeholders like yourself won’t want to miss! You can register here, if you haven’t already.

Below are just some of the exciting discussions we’ll be hosting. We hope to “see” you there on Oct. 20th!


Eli Kirshbaum
Health Policy Reporter

1. Afternoon Keynote: A four-corner conversation on health policy

To close out next week’s conference, Host DJ Wilson will moderate a panel with four of the General Assembly’s leading voices in health policy. In this “four-corner” conversation, one member of each party from each chamber in the legislature will share their thoughts on the health policy progress in this year’s session and discuss their plans for next session.

Sen. Rhonda Fields, Chair of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, Sen. Jim Smallwood, Senate Minority Caucus Chair, Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, Chair of the House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee, and Rep. Matt Soper, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Legal Services, will speak on this panel. Be sure to register so you don’t miss this valuable, bipartisan convening of state policymakers!


2. Scoping Colorado’s evolving behavioral health system

This year’s legislative session saw considerable advancements in behavioral health policy. In this timely panel, we will hear from a group of subject matter experts on the legislature’s accomplishments on the behavioral health front, the state’s work to implement its new Behavioral Health Administration, and more.

This conversation will feature Robert Werthwein, Director of the Office of Behavioral Health at the Colorado Dept. of Human Services, Daniel Darting, CEO of Signal Behavioral Health Network, Rep. Mary Young, Vice-Chair of the House Education Committee, and Rob Bremer, PhD, VP of Network Strategy at Colorado Access.


3. Update from HCPF

HCPF’s work in recent years has helped solidify Colorado’s status as one of the nation’s leading states for health policy activity. Having spearheaded efforts to import prescription drugs from other countries, lower hospital prices, and more, the department is pursuing a variety of projects that have significant implications for the state’s health care sector.

In this HCPF-centric panel, hear about the work underway at the department from Cristen Bates, Director of HCPF’s Population Health Division, Bonnie Silva, Director of HCPF’s Office of Community Living, and Pete Walsh, MD, the department’s Chief Medical Officer.


4. Workforce through a DEI lens

Racial minorities make up around 16% of Colorado’s total population. How can the state’s health care sector ensure that its workforce accurately reflects the diverse population it serves?

With the US projected to become a “majority-minority” country by 2045, diversity, equity, and inclusion are more important than ever — especially in health care. Joining us on our “Workforce through a DEI lens” panel will be Megan Beers, Senior Associate at HMA, Maria Kneusel-Rivera, DNP, DEI Specialist at Centura Health, Abigail Lara, MD, Medical Director for Health Equity at UCHealth, and Anya Nystrom, Director of Culture, Strategy, Equity, and Innovation at CDPHE.


5. Legislators talk through health policy

While we have state lawmakers slotted into various conversations throughout the day, two of the panels on the agenda are specifically focused on these policymakers and the work they’ve done at the capitol. On the “Policy leadership: Democrats” panel, Sen. Janet Buckner, a member of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, Rep. Shannon Bird, Chair of the House Finance Committee, Rep. Susan Lontine, Chair of the House Health & Insurance Committee, Rep. Naquetta Ricks, a member of the House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee, and Rep. Leslie Herod, Chair of the Colorado Black Democratic Legislative Caucus, will speak about the Democratic party’s health policy priorities.

Later in the day, the “Policy leadership: Republicans” panel will feature Reps. Richard Holtorf and Colin Larson, both members of the House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee, as well as Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, a member of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. These seasoned legislators will share their experience crafting health policy as members of the minority party.