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Equity, diversity and inclusion at CDHS


Grid of dozens of diverse people with a rainbow background

In 2020, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order outlining a multifaceted approach to addressing inequity and systemic injustice wherever it exists in state government. State agencies are developing long-term strategic plans that foster inclusive, anti-discriminatory workplaces, create standards for accessibility, and address barriers as well as disparities in the procurement process. Additionally, the State of Colorado's universal policy on equity, diversity and inclusion in state employment sets forth expectations for all classified employees within the state personnel system and non-classified employees in executive branch departments.


Message from Executive Director Michelle Barnes
Photograph of Michelle Barnes

CDHS's work around equity, diversity and inclusion is especially important to me. I am committed to listening, learning and doing everything I can to ensure we foster a culture that values, respects and takes action based on what we hear from our community partners and employees. Community engagement and listening to the community will be one of the greatest pillars of our success, and we must prioritize inclusion from the outset. 

I want to acknowledge that there is a great deal of work to do internally and externally to continue to support the people who help people and those we serve. CDHS is on a critical journey to ensure that institutional and perceived barriers, as well as program disparities, are recognized and addressed. We want to be an agency that meets people where they are and embraces the differences in all of us. Everyone has a role to play in creating and enhancing a more equitable culture and to building more meaningful partnerships with diverse communities across our state.

Together we are better. I look forward to this journey with all our partners to fulfill our mission to empower all Coloradans to thrive.

Message from Chief EDI Officer Sandy Ho
Photograph of Sandy Ho

I am honored and grateful for the opportunity to support CDHS’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. CDHS commits not only the words and heart for advancing EDI but also dedicates resources and expertise to this work. I am excited about our continued progress through our EDI Action Plan. 

At CDHS, we strive to serve Coloradans through bold and innovative health and human services. This means that how we think about and do our work focuses on access and inclusion. We want all clients, communities, other state organizations, and employees to have what they need to feel welcomed, supported and valued. 

We model our values in our people-first approach and balanced, accountable, transparent, ethical and collaborative work. Our ultimate goal is that our policies and practices allow for the greatest access and authentic care. As we continue to listen to our clients, community partners, grantees and employees providing direct services, CDHS minimizes barriers and creates more opportunities to best serve as the people who help people. 


EDI reports and plans

CDHS is committed to embedding equity, diversity and inclusion throughout our organization. The CDHS Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan 2021-25 is a direct reflection of our commitment and we want to be transparent about all our EDI initiatives and our progress on the plan. Both the plan and reports below highlight the actions of the department to improve processes, culture and engagement of our employees and with the communities we serve. We are always open to hearing from you if you have recommended additions to the plan.


CDHS EDI Action Plan

The CDHS Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan 2021-25 demonstrates our commitment to embedding EDI throughout our organization. It outlines the activities we hope to accomplish through deliberate actions to improve processes, culture and engagement of our employees and with the communities we serve.

Read the CDHS EDI Action Plan


CDHS EDI Annual Report

The CDHS Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Annual Report demonstrates our commitment to embedding EDI throughout our organization, with a focus on leadership, family and community engagement, policies and programs, learning and growth, communication, and the employee lifecycle.

Read the full EDI Annual Report


Annual Report executive summary

The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Annual Report Executive Summary is a four-page document highlighting the key aspects of the full Annual Report, with an eye toward the next steps in tackling long-standing barriers to achieving more equitable delivery of human services across Colorado.

Read the Annual Report executive summary

Family and community engagement

CDHS uses two important principles to guide the way we provide human services. One is equity, diversity and inclusion. The other is a whole-community, whole-family, whole-person approach, also known as two-generation or two-gen. And to hold ourselves accountable to those principles, we created the Family and Community Engagement Plan, a roadmap to a more inclusive CDHS. The plan illustrates activities the department will be embarking on, who will be held accountable, and how the work will be measured.

One of the highlights our family and community engagement efforts is the Family Voice Council. The Family Voice Council is made up of people who have been involved with, or are currently engaging in, two CDHS services or programs. Council members come together monthly to learn, give input and ultimately affect positive systems change. The Council's mission is to improve the quality and delivery of services for all Coloradans through giving thoughtful input and achieving personal goals. Members are able to share their honest experiences and provide feedback as a guide for the future.

Man gesturing while speaking to others at a boardroom table

More information

CDHS Equity Statement

Our mission at CDHS is to empower Coloradans to thrive with the people-first values of accountability, transparency and ethical practice. In order to uphold this foundation, we must do more than talk about equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). CDHS is actively listening and learning in order to responsively change our policies, practices and mindsets. 

We acknowledge that all public service systems were built to serve most people, not all people. Bias, discrimination and lack of accessibility negatively affect our employees and those we serve, and we cannot passively allow injustice to continue. Therefore, we work to identify, uproot and dismantle systemic racism, ableism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cisgenderism and additional forms of oppression that have harmed many Colorado communities.

We are committed to having critical conversations to support Colorado communities to thrive. We recognize that equity work is continual, that we are always growing, learning and unlearning, and improving. With the input of community, staff and leadership, we have created an Equity Action Plan. The plan focuses on six major areas of impact, which include leadership, family and community engagement, policy and program assessment, learning and growth, communication, and employee lifecycle.

We need your continued voice and input, and we invite you to join in our conversations and efforts, whether you are one of our valued employees or a community member engaging in our services.  If you are a valued employee, please visit our EDI intranet page with many opportunities to get involved. If you are a community partner, we invite you to learn more about our community engagement opportunities. We are partners and co-creators in this work with you.

CDHS is fully committed to continuing our systemwide investment in EDI strategies and initiatives that are both employee and client/community-centered to eliminate disparities and increase equity in the programs and services we provide.

Acknowledgment of Native peoples

We acknowledge that the Colorado Department of Human Services, whose facilities exist across the entirety of the state of Colorado, operates on the unceded land of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Eastern Shoshone, Jicarilla Apache, Kiowa, Osage, Ute Tribes past and present. We also recognize that many other Indigenous Peoples also have ties to this land that were disrupted or altered by colonization. We honor and give gratitude to the land itself and the people who have safeguarded it throughout time. It is important for all of us to understand the longstanding history that has brought us to reside on the land, and to seek to understand our place within that history. We commit to continuing to learn how to be better stewards of the land we inhabit as we continue developing relationships with all of its inhabitants.

Whose land are you on? Find out on the Native Land website.

Training for partners
Diversity University

CDHS's EDI team continues to develop learning and training opportunities that will be available in synchronous, asynchronous, in-person, virtual, and from a variety of sources. Our opportunities for EDI advancement will focus on systems, processes, culture, individuals, and leadership. Diversity University is one of many EDI training opportunities that will be offered through CDHS.

The purpose of this training is to improve the ability of individuals to thrive in an equitable, diverse, and inclusive environment. Over the course of two and a half days (synchronous and virtual), we will address poverty, power, privilege, neurodiversity, ableism and historically marginalized communities. We will examine individual responsibility to advance equity, diversity and inclusion in your specific work and life. 

Learn more about Diversity University

Register for Diversity University

What we're doing internally
  • The Belonging Project: The Belonging Project is an initiative by CDHS employees, for CDHS employees, to create a space where all employees feel a sense of belonging. The group explores specific themes each month and shares employee-created content about their experiences of those topics in the CDHS-wide newsletter every week. If you would like to learn more about The Belonging Project, you can reach out to
  • Family and Community Engagement Champions: The CDHS Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Champions are individuals across the department who regularly interact with patients, clients, family members or community partners and volunteer their time to meet quarterly as a community of practice. FACE Champions help guide the community-facing work of the EDI Action Plan and performance measures.
  • Family Voice Council: CDHS recognizes the value of family participation and engaging the voices of those with lived systems experience. The Family Voice Council is made up of people who have been involved with, or are currently engaging in, two CDHS services or programs. Council members come together monthly to learn, give input and ultimately affect positive systems change. The council has also created a website — the Family Voice Compass — to provide useful information, tools and resources to help other organizations create their own family voice structure.
Additional EDI resources and education

Contact us

Dr. Sandy Ho, chief EDI officer:
General EDI correspondence: