ASU names Kristina Daniel Exceptional New Alumna

(09-23-2015)

Kristina Daniel came to Alamosa 13 years ago for a job in residence life at Adams State. Two masters' degrees and a few positions later, she is now chief operating officer for San Luis Valley Behavioral Health.

In recognition of these accomplishments and her dedication to the Alamosa community, Daniel was selected Adams State's Exceptional New Alumna for 2015. She will accept the award at the Adams State University Alumni Banquet and Awards Ceremony during Homecoming, Oct. 2.To make a reservation and purchase tickets for the banquet, please call ASU Alumni Relations, 719-587-8110.

"I was very surprised and honored," she said about receiving the award. "I consider it a privilege to work in our community and help make a difference. I'm very lucky to have had the opportunities I've had."

After earning a master's in counseling at Adams State in 2006, Daniel joined the agency (then SLV Comprehensive Community Mental Health) as the Prevention Coordinator. She supervised a staff of 12-14 who worked in area schools and with community coalitions.

In 2011, she and her husband, Kevin Daniel, ASU's Director of Computing Services, were part of the first cohort to complete Adams State's MBA program. Her MBA with an emphasis in public administration precipitated a move up to Assoc. Director of Clinical Operations. In early 2013, Daniel was promoted to Chief Operating Officer. She reports to the Executive Director and has five direct reports, who manage a total of 110 employees.

"The counseling program, first and foremost, gave me a great foundation. It made me a better supervisor, employee, and community person," Daniel said. "As I expanded administratively, the MBA gave me a broader business foundation. I feel more effective leading our group into these changes."

Her work is directly impacted by changes in health care. "The expansion of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act have made it possible for more people to access affordable health care. Colorado is very progressive, so there has been an influx of patients using our services."

She said over the last year, SLV Behavioral Health saw a nearly 25 percent increase in clients. Thus, her agency has expanded its staff; recent hires include five graduates of Adams State's counseling program and two from the MBA program. "More than half of our staff are Adams State alumni," she noted.

SLV Behavioral Health also provides practica for Adams State counseling students, clinical rotations for nursing students, and internships for students majoring in sociology, psychology, and business administration. The agency's board created a scholarship for undergraduates interested in counseling and behavioral health that includes an award of $2,000 and a senior internship.

"Adams State was instrumental in helping me be successful. I think it's important to give back," she said. For example, she conducted a training at a conference on Equity in Sports and Other Arenas, held on campus in April.

The agency adopted its new name in May 2014. "Because of the stigma surrounding 'mental illness,' we wanted to broaden the understanding of our services," Daniel explained. "I believe 'behavioral health' is much more person-centered. The client feels more in control, in that he or she can change behaviors and develop coping and regulation skills."

She added there is a national trend toward more holistic health care. "You can't treat the body without dealing with behaviors; they completely impact each other."

SLV Behavioral Health operates clinics in every SLV county, and has a presence in eight Valley-Wide Health Systems clinics. It also partners with departments of social services, schools, probation offices, Tu Casa (serving victims of domestic and sexual violence), La Puente (homeless shelter), and the Center for Restorative Programs.

"Collaborations are some of the biggest benefit we bring to the community. We are a strong partner, and always want to be part of the conversation in seeking community solutions."

Collaboration and the move to holistic care are behind one of Daniel's newest ventures: the Alamosa South Clinic, which will open this fall on the SLV Behavioral Health campus. Developed in conjunction with Valley-Wide, the clinic will integrate both physical and behavioral health needs.

We wanted to build a different model," Daniel said. She's been working on the new clinic with Gigi Darricades, President/CEO of Valley-Wide Health System, who said, "Kristina is upbeat and positive. She looks for effective ways to achieve goals, but is also realistic. She identifies issues that need to be addressed and then gets to work on these issues."

By Julie Waechter