Member Experience Advisory Council

Improving Member Experience

Health First Colorado and Child Health Plan Plus members, we need your voice!

At the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, we recognize the value of member and family participation and engaging the voices of those with lived experience in our programs. Engaging with our members is a guiding principle behind our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) work and is fundamental to our Department’s value of person- and family-centeredness.

The Member Experience Advisory Council (MEAC) is made up of people who are current Health First Colorado or Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) members or parent/caregivers of members. MEAC members come together monthly to learn, give input and ultimately affect positive change in our programs. Members share their honest experiences and provide feedback as a guide for the future.

Childcare, transportation costs and stipends for time well spent are offered for members’ participation.

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Mission and Objectives

  • Engage members and family members of Health First Colorado and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) to improve member experience and deepen person- and family-centered practices and culture.
  • Continue to build understanding and commitment for person- and family-centeredness, which means we respect and value individual strengths, preferences and contributions, and work with members, not doing things to or for them.
  • Provide opportunities for collaboration between the Department and members with the goal of improving member experience and the relationship between the Department and all members.
  • Provide a way for Department staff to test with members whether or not programs and policies are working as designed and having the desired outcome.
  • Build staff empathy and skills by engaging with actual members and their lived experience, accessing meaning behind data, not just relying on what’s easy to collect and analyze.

History and Background

The Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care (IPFCC) was invited to the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to conduct a site visit to evaluate the Department’s person- and family-centered policies and practices. We define person-centeredness as “thinking and behaving in ways that respect and value individual preferences, strengths and contributions”. In short, we design with our members, not to or for them. The top recommendation from the IPFCC was the creation of a member-only advisory council. The Person- and Family-Centeredness Advisory Council, Person-Centered Approach Core team and staff Person-Centeredness Champions group were created in April 2015.

The group was renamed the Member Experience Advisory Council (MEAC) in 2016, and has since driven cultural change within the organization toward member-centricity, plain language, language justice, and accessibility. The MEAC has also been a launching pad for several additional efforts including the Community-Based Organization (CBO) Ambassador Program to engage non-English speaking communities to make improvements to member communications. MEAC alumni members are involved in many areas of the organization, in other State agency efforts to improve access, services and benefits, and nationally as paid consultants in health care and public insurance.

Contact

Have questions? Contact Member Experience Advisory Council coordinator Sarah Davis at 303.866.5380 or Sarah.Davis@state.co.us.

News

MEAC Members

Briana Anthony, El Paso County

Briana Anthony

I wanted to join MEAC because as a parent of four children, two of whom have autism, I understand the challenges families face in accessing and navigating healthcare services. Being part of MEAC allows me to bring my firsthand experiences as a parent of children with special needs to the table, contributing to the improvement of Health First Colorado and Child Health Plan Plus programs for families like mine. I believe in the importance of involving members and families in improving healthcare experiences. MEAC provides a platform where my voice is heard, and I can see the impact of our collective input on shaping policies and practices for better member experiences.

Leslie Chouinard, Saguache County

Leslie Chouinard

I have dealt with sporadic and random access to health care for most of my adult life. I have also seen the effects that the lack of access to health care have had on my friends and family. I hope that by taking part in committees such as MEAC I can make a difference in these gaps in the health care system.

Patrick D’Silva, Boulder County

Patrick D’Silva

Health First Colorado has been critical for my wife and I, especially with our son who has special needs. My background is in higher ed, and I have been looking for opportunities to give back to the community beyond my work in the classroom. When I heard about MEAC, I thought it would be a great way to pay things forward and work with others to ensure that everyone in Colorado has the health care they need.

Dave Ehlert, El Paso County

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Hey there! I joined MEAC to help others navigate through the system and get the exact accessible care they need. It is incredibly satisfying to know my voice counts! I’m a single dad on Medicaid and it has been just amazing and for others, life saving.

Jacob Espinoza, Denver County

Jacob Espinoza

I am originally from New York, but currently live in Denver. I am a chef, herbalist and yoga teacher. I joined MEAC in November 2023. I joined MEAC because I enjoy this program and feel it’s so necessary in today’s society especially after the pandemic. I am hopeful that the programs will continue and expand on providing support for preventive health and the care and support we need daily.

Diane Finley – Pueblo County

Diane Finley

I live in Pueblo and am part of the Buy-In program for Adults with Disabilities. I enjoy helping/giving back and trying to find solutions to issues. It’s a great opportunity to share my voice and hope to be part of positive change. The individuals in the group can continue to represent and speak up for their city/county/state while representing their individual groups. The monthly commitment for a year or more gives me a sense of belonging. I keep coming back to MEAC meetings as I feel my voice is heard. Meetings are organized, and we are always asked for our input. It’s a positive experience. I want to assist in reducing the stigma of individuals/families on Medicaid.

Talonnie Granger – Arapahoe County

Talonnie Granger

I am a small business owner who actively supports fellow small business owners by sharing their stories and their business. It has been my passion to help out my community by becoming a resource for clients in providing education for insurance and developing individuals with a growth mindset by teaching them how to properly ensure their families and secure a solid foundation for their future.

Jessie Hancox, Jefferson County

Jessie Hancox

I had been working with adults and families for the past 16 years when my son was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a childhood neuromuscular disease that slowly destroys the body’s muscle. This diagnosis changed my family’s life trajectory, leading me to resign and become my son’s caregiver. When I first applied for the Medicaid waiver for my son, the application was denied 3 times. Once I received support to not only apply for Medicaid, but the appropriate pathway to the Medicaid waiver, the application was approved. This process inadvertently connected me to the Case Management redesign meetings, that then linked me to the MEAC group.

MEAC keeps me coming back each month for the community and connection it provides. This group has been a life raft for me; being part of a larger cause that wants to hear from a diverse group of member experiences and how to continue to better serve the community, is refreshing and rejuvenating. This group has become a place where I could share my experience, in hopes to make this application process liberating, rather than exhaustive and deflating.

My hope for the future is to see MEAC continue to thrive and support the community’s needs, while addressing their concerns and feedback in a proactive manner. I am so grateful for this opportunity!

Robert Haywood, Arapahoe County

Robert Haywood

After 10 years of incarceration returning to a free society, health matters. Especially the education that individuals and their families need to know in order to understand the value in knowing what is available to them through our healthcare system. I joined MEAC because I truly believe that I am being given an opportunity to provide input and create real social change in the lives of individuals, families, and communities who have Medicaid or CHP+. I keep coming back because I know within my heart that if I do not show up and speak up there will be millions of voices that will go unheard. My hope is that we implement the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) work that is essential to the value of person- and family-centeredness.

Lawrence Mathews, Denver

Lawrence Mathews

Hello everyone! My name is Lawrence Mathews, I’m 44, I love to help others in need and feel very honored to be a member of MEAC. This is my first year as a board member, it is a VERY rewarding experience as well as being highly informative.

My link to the healthcare system is that I’ve been a Medicaid recipient since 2009. I am a new resident to Colorado, currently residing in Denver by way of Houston, TX.

I appreciate the opportunity to be a member of MEAC and sincerely wish that I am providing beneficial insight towards the meetings, which will bring about positive changes wherever they are needed. Thank you!

Will Mottern – Arapahoe County

Will Mottern

I am disabled and a current member of Health First Colorado. I work with another charity and enjoy gardening and my pets. I joined MEAC because the programs have really helped me and I wanted to give back any way I could. I’m grateful to be one of the voices of Coloradans who want to make things work better. It’s been an honor to work with so many great people. I hope MEAC continues to hear from people what can be made better so the state can help those in need. I am grateful to be a part of MEAC, it has been very rewarding for me.

Emily Post, Denver County

Emily Post

I’m an early-30s transgender woman and a social work masters’ student. My experience navigating healthcare as a trans person has not always been easy; I got into MEAC to make access to care easier and less mystifying for the next generation of transgender youth. A better world starts with our own communities; a world that prioritizes people over systems.

Danielle (Dani) Sondrol, Rio Grande County

Emily Post

I’ve lived across the country in various communities both large and small. My husband and I have four children. We enjoy cooking healthy meals, camping, hiking, painting, nature photography, wild foraging, and homeschooling our children. Our dog, Dolly, and our cat, Juniper, accompany us on many adventures. We are always together as a family, whether at home or trekking through the backcountry. Our family consists of many members with special needs, and access to Medicaid has improved our quality of life.

Supportive services are fundamentally crucial for our society to be healthy. My interests have long been rooted in activism and advocacy. Being invited to join the MEAC is an exciting new opportunity to hear others’ experiences and lend my voice to a more extensive discussion to benefit millions of residents in our diverse and excellent state of Colorado.

Mari Temmer, Larimer County

Mari Temmer

I am a single parent of 33 year old twin daughters and a breast cancer survivor. I serve on the City of Loveland Senior Advisory Board and the Disability Advisory Commission and am a board member of the Loveland Justice League. I have been a PTO President, and have worked as a Behavior Modification Specialist at a large teaching hospital in Chicago. I was a specialized foster parent for over 10 years, and also had a foster son on the autism spectrum. I have been on Medicaid since leaving the work force to deal with several disabilities and I believe everyone deserves to receive only the best health care, and to be treated with dignity and respect. I am excited to be able to make a positive contribution to the Medicaid experience.

A young disabled woman with acquired brain injury and rare diseases using Long-Term Services and Supports in Larimer County

A member from Douglas County

A member from El Paso County

A member from Jefferson County

Share Your Story

The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing wants to share your story!

If Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid program) or Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) has made a positive impact on you or your family, we want to hear about it. Your story will help other Coloradans better understand the benefits of health insurance coverage.

To share your story with us, please complete this form. We will not share your story with anyone else without your written permission first.

Check out the video below to experience how great it is to hear about other members.

See other member stories

Mary’s Story

Cassie’s Story

Beth’s Story

Raina’s Story

Emery’s Story

Mike’s Story

Maddie’s Story

Stacy’s Story

Jessica’s Story

The Soto/Ynigo Family Story


En Español

Jasmine’s Story

Steve’s Story

MEAC Alumni

Alexa Saindon-Holdorf – Mesa County

Alexa Saindon-Holdorf

My name is Alexandria Saindon-Holdorf. I have worked in child care for the last 4 years. I have a 6-year-old who has had multiple things. He has seizures and also has development delay. I’ve been working really hard to keep him where he is supposed be. I have worked with CHP+ a lot so that everything is covered.

Jessica Needs – El Paso County

Jessica Needs

Watch Jessica’s Story

Health First Colorado changed my life for 8 years as a biracial divorced single, 4th generation of slave ancestors, 3rd generation of deaf family mom to my 5 intelligent children and grandmother to an adorable 10-year-old granddaughter. My three adult children live on their own while two deaf teens live with me. Also my children are third-generation Medicaid recipients. I’m a domestic violence survivor, homeless survivor that led to PTSD and anxiety. I enjoy my healthy lifestyle, traveling, skiing, camping, hiking, and spending time with my family after joining Health First Colorado and want to be on MEAC as my investment with an amazing opportunity for us to make a change.

Brett Ryall – Adams County

Brett Ryall

I was born and raised in Colorado, and am mostly familiar with Denver and 4-corners areas. I graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango and have years of experience in the hospitality industry. It has taught me the value of customer service which I will bring to MEAC. My volunteer experience includes Amina Shelters, Senior Citizen facilities, non-profit organizations and local hospitals. I’m glad to be a part of MEAC and making a contribution.

Antjuan Bouldin – Denver County

Antjuan Bouldin

I’m a Health First Colorado/CO Medicaid Program member (since 2012)… I care deeply for people, and I believe that we can always be “doing better.” I’m a deep thinker, an empath and idealist, who hopes to offer a fresh and unique perspective on things, and give voice to some of the lesser-represented people in our communities.

John Miller – El Paso County

I’m 24, and I’m a Colorado native. I love learning about science, as well as traveling and living in other cultures. My hobbies include cooking, reading, and watching anime with my wife and my two cats. I recently traveled to Ecuador, and I’m hoping to travel to Vietnam in the future.

Hania Sakkal – Larimer County

Hania Sakkal

I was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, and moved to the US to go to college. I ended up settling in Colorado, where I raised two children who are now in college. I live with PTSD and have worked very hard to heal using different modalities. I am very passionate about advocating for people from different backgrounds and for those who live with mental illness.

Mark Taht – Denver County

Mark Taht

I will hopefully learn all I can and simply relate my increased knowledge to others in need. I’m a quick learner and I believe I can also bring my knowledge to the table.

Leonor Urias – Pueblo County

Leonor Urias

I am a single mom and currently co-parenting. I am a SNAP beneficiary along with Health First Colorado for me and CHP for my son. I am the oldest daughter and was raised by my single immigrant mother. I have a younger sister who is intellectually and partially physically disabled. I am currently back in school trying to further my education and I hope my background and experience will benefit this council.

Seth Watkins – Arapahoe County

Seth Watkins

I joined MEAC because I was looking for somewhere to volunteer that was some sort of committee or public commission. When I learned what MEAC was and that they were accepting applications for a 2-year term I really got excited because being a member of Health First Colorado there were things I wanted to say, “Great job!” And some things that were terrible and I wanted help to fix. I keep coming back because I’m learning so much about how MEAC really does impact State Medicaid decisions and when MEAC shared that the new Behavioral Health Administration was accepting applications for the Behavioral Health Administration I really wanted to apply for that too because as someone with Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Trauma, and PTSD I knew I could make a difference like at MEAC. So, I got appointed to the BHAAC and look forward to ways the Mental Health System in Colorado can change and improve. As a Peer Specialist with the Ascent Team at Aurora Mental Health Center, I know the impact that Mental Health and Medicaid working together can help save lives and that’s why I continue to look for ways to let my voice be heard and to encourage other to speak up too. In my spare time I love on my Service Dog, Fear; and go to 12 Step meetings for my recovery. I have over 6 years Clean and I’ve learned to live Just For Today.

Dan Ham, Otero County

Dan Ham

I have been a member of Health First Colorado since 2007. Having lived in southeast Colorado for a majority of my life, I’ve experienced the small town communities not having a voice at the state level. My goal, here on the advisory council, is to help those who aren’t heard, or might not be heard, have the voice that might be desperately needed. So far, I’ve learned a lot of information being on the council, and have strived to ensure that the small town folks of our great state have a loud enough voice to be heard.

Melissa Bledsoe – Morgan County

Melissa Bledsoe

I’m a mother of 7, animal lover and my children have Medicaid or CHP+. I’m a Colorado Native. Absolutely always looking for a way to help out my community.

Jacinda Hughes – Kit Carson County

Jacinda Hughes

Watch Jacinda’s Story

I joined MEAC to have a say in policies and make a difference. I keep coming back because I know my voice is being heard and I hope MEAC keeps doing the great work it does.

Mike Badar – Boulder County

Mike Badar

Watch Mike’s Story

My name is Mike and I’ve been a member of Health First Colorado for over 7 years. I’m recovering from my 2nd brain injury – which required a four-hour surgery. Health First CO has been there for me every step of the way. The majority of the time I was always able to schedule appointments with the health care providers I wanted to work with; however, when problems did arise with scheduling, they were handled quickly and I was never denied coverage. This has given me the confidence that I will continue to heal from my 2nd TBI. For a government-run health care program, I could not ask for better service. Thank you Health First Colorado!

Alirio Moran – Arapahoe County

Alirio Moran

I am an uncle to beautiful Latinx and multiracial children who share their joy with me and also challenge my depression daily. I am an advocate and proponent of finding the right mental health partner (it may take a few tries, but you are worth it!) to develop a self-care practice that works for one’s health. I survived assaults, trauma (homicides and bombings during a civil war), poverty, ignorance, homophobia, homelessness, microaggressions, and the never-ending battle against stigmas. To quote a Colorado hero, “I am different, not less than.” For that reason, my service and motivation is to promote language access to all people in Colorado. Along with promoting the rights of people with disabilities, these two accomplishments make me feel useful and proud. Thanks to my friends, colleagues, mentors, and educational organizations that are leading the way to train the next generation of interpreters—they’ve helped me find my voice!

Mary Sanders – Jefferson County

Mary Sanders

Watch Mary’s Story

I am a student at Metropolitan State University in Denver majoring in interpersonal/relational communications and family services. I came to Colorado from Phoenix in 2012 and have received Medicaid and food stamp assistance since moving here. I was born blind, and I joined the Member Experience Advisory Council because I believe in promoting strong advocacy for statewide services within multiple communities including the disability community. I represent the blindness community as an activist in order to make sure all social services are accessible, including application and website accessibility.

Beth Bevilacqua – Denver County

Beth Bevilacqua
Watch Beth’s Story

I am a single mom with a six-year-old son who has special needs. I consider us extremely blessed to receive the vast health coverage from Health First Colorado. I first inquired because I felt the wide range of benefits from the coverage we had tapped into qualified me to chime in. I could give elaborate feedback, and give voice, particularly for the special needs community. But I never expected the family and deeper connection I became a part of within this diverse group. Through MEAC, I discovered how important my feedback and my reality are to those who are the backbone of Health First Colorado.

Marcel Castro – El Paso County

Marcel Castro

I joined the MEAC team to contribute my personal experience with Health First Colorado to the team in hopes of creating a better experience for all of us. The thing that keeps me coming back to the MEAC meetings are the people. Listening to the experiences of others and how that experience is being used to improve and create upon the system in place, keeps me returning with a sense of encouragement that what we are doing here will make for a better tomorrow.

Janelle Jenkins

Janelle Jenkins

I am a social worker and mother, community advocate, seeking to end injustice everywhere.

Kelly Butler – Denver County

Kelly Butler

I am currently a Medicaid recipient and have found Health First to be an excellent health care and dental provider. I have gotten wonderful care and the coverage provided has been phenomenal. I am very excited to be on the Member Experience Advisory Council and hope that I can provide valuable input to help increase awareness to others.

Laura Carroll – Delta County

Laura Carroll

Laura Carroll is now a patient and customer experience advisor who works with health care organizations and agencies to help them understand and implement fully integrated health care policies. Laura believes that every person deserves easy access to the very best medical, mental, and social health care and that they all deserve to receive that care in the time and space that is best for them, or as she likes to call it, “meeting people where they are.”

Laura has served on Health First Colorado’s Member Experience Advisory Council, was appointed as the Honorary Patient Representative for Governor Polis’s State Innovation Model Advisory Board, and has participated in numerous panel discussions on integrated health care access, including “Beneficiaries Helping to Improve the Medicaid Program,” during the 2018 National Association of Medicaid Directors Annual meeting. Laura is an avid gardener and photographer, and she enjoys exploring the wilderness with her husband and son, Jed and Joe.

Regan Choi – San Miguel County

Regan Choi

I’m a mother of two, and all of us had always foregone dearly needed health care, not even realizing what a difference it could make in the quality of our lives, until we became Health First members. I live in western Colorado and love being active outdoors. I’ve taught natural and human history, skiing and outdoor skills, grown organic fruit, and also faced losing my health and mobility several times. Being involved in community and the world around me is what makes life valuable, and being part of the MEAC community has enriched that.

Samantha Fields – El Paso County

Samantha Fields

I am a single, disabled senior, a survivor of domestic abuse, have experienced homelessness, and live with depression and anxiety. I currently benefit from Medicare, Colorado Medicaid, and an Elderly, Blind, and Disabled waiver. I started doing patient advocacy in 2011 but didn’t realize that’s what I was doing. I just wanted to help other people who dealt with the same issues that I had to live with. It was empowering to realize that my lived experience was a valuable resource. When I’m not serving on advisory councils and sharing my story, I enjoy writing, watching movies, traveling to new places and meeting new people, spending time with animals, and watching birds and wildlife. I am a passionate science and space enthusiast. I believe in bringing out the best in everyone around me by giving them an opportunity to do something great, and I live by the adage “Live your best life every day because today is the best day ever”.

George Cunningham – Larimer County

George Cunningham

Hi my name is George Cunningham. I’m originally from Woodland Park, Colorado but I’m living in Fort Collins, Colorado for school! I’m connected to Health First Colorado cause as a student working on my PhD from Harvard Medical School I’m not able to work full-time at the moment! So I have been a Health First Colorado member a little over 3 years now! I have been a MEAC since October 2021! I’ve been able to see first hand the changes that our MEAC Meetings are involved in become changes to the system! It’s a Great Group to be a part of! It’s an Honor and Privilege to be on such an influential Advisory Board!

 

How else can I get involved? Find out more or email feedback@healthfirstcolorado.com