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by Ross Brooks

I first met Mary in July 2012 at a gathering of the West Mountain Regional Health Alliance (WMRHA).  Following that first meeting, Mary quickly reached out to partner with our organization, Mountain Family Health Centers (MFHC), on improving access to health insurance coverage and healthcare for vulnerable populations in Garfield County.  Mary works unassumingly, and effectively, to maximize Medicaid and CHP+ benefits for Garfield County residents.  She has been a strong partner and proponent of increasing access to affordable medical, dental, and behavioral healthcare through MFHC’s Glenwood Springs, Rifle, and Parachute (dental SMILES) health centers.

Mary was one of the pioneers on the Western Slope to recognize that the health of rural Colorado is impacted in large part by the social determinants of health (SDoH) for the population.  Mary was a key leader in the launch of the Accountable Health Communities Model (AHCM) in Western CO, which assesses the social needs of community members and is beginning to develop long-term plans to tackle the most pressing SDoH challenges.  Through Mary’s leadership, and in partnership with many others, Garfield, Eagle, and Pitkin Counties and the WMRHA are collaboratively working together to address housing insecurity and to develop supportive housing options for vulnerable populations.

Mary has been vigilant about helping rural Colorado grow our own workforce and leaders.  Through her vision, Denver University’s Graduate School of Social Work launched the Western Colorado Master’s of Social Work (MSW) program in Glenwood Springs and has been training the next generation of social work and behavioral health leaders for the past 5 years.  Today, many behavioral health and social work organizations (like Pitkin-Garfield-Eagle Counties, Mountain Family, MindSprings, etc.) employ behavioral health professionals and social workers who received their training locally from the DU MSW program.  This local training program allows talented professionals to further their education, while maintaining their families, careers, and service in the communities where they live. 

Mary’s not boisterous, but she’s effective and committed to improving her communities.  It’s an honor to support this nomination for Mary Baydarian.