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Expert Consulting Services

The Colorado Health Institute has a team of experts with years of experience navigating the past, present and future of health and health care policy. We are available to work with you on your toughest projects.

Contact our CEO, Michele Lueck, at to discuss how we can help support your important work.

Behavioral Health

Tackling mental health and substance use problems in Colorado.

Behavior health is a hot topic in Colorado these days — and for good reason. Suicide rates have reached an all-time high. The rate of opioid overdoses continues to climb. And in 2015, nine percent of Coloradans who said they needed metal health care didn't get it. CHI's experts have worked on projects for a range of organizations dealing with this issue.

Examples from our behavioral health portfolio:

  • Medicaid Inpatient Substance Use Treatment. The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing hired CHI to study the feasibility of expanding residential and inpatient treatment coverage. Read our report here.
  • Primary Prevention Needs Assessment. The Office of behavioral health hired CHI to conduct a statewide needs assessment and guide strategy for primary prevention of drug use. See our work here.

Community Health

Helping to build the healthiest foundation for Colorado’s communities.

Nonprofit hospitals, safety net providers, local public health agencies, philanthropical foundations and community members turn to the Colorado Health Institute for support in making the state’s communities healthier. We are skilled in conducting community health needs assessments (CHNAs) and developing strategies based on the findings. We provide guidance for developing their primary data collection instruments as well. We bring to this work a deep understanding of data, health and the factors that shape health outcomes.

Some examples from our community health portfolio:

  • Colorado Health Access Fund. The Denver Foundation hired us to analyze the state of health access across Colorado, strategize about how to target grants by the Fund, and evaluate its performance on an annual basis. See our work here.
  • Children’s Hospital Colorado. With an understanding of the health needs identified by Children’s CHNA, CHI created analyses at the ZIP code level to identify neighborhoods with the highest needs within the hospital’s service area. This work supported Children’s Hospital as it prioritized resources for community benefits.
  • Kaiser Permanente Colorado. We partnered with Kaiser Permanente Colorado in 2013 and 2016 to complete the CHNA process for its 24-county service area.
  • Centura Health. We facilitated the CHNA design process for this health system, created graphics and designed a report template used by each of its hospitals.
Sara Schmitt


Learnings as a crucial tool for informed decision-making and program sustainability.

Evaluating a project, a program or a grant should never be an exercise in checking a box or writing a report that sits on a shelf. The Colorado Health Institute believes that the most effective evaluations are living tools. They contribute to program sustainability, drive course corrections and identify policy opportunities. They make a difference.

CHI approaches evaluation systematically, first defining the guiding questions and then identifying the best framework to get answers. We develop a theory of change model to understand potential impacts. We gather quantitative and qualitative data, analyze that data, and place it in useful context. When appropriate, we provide our clients with informed recommendations for next steps.

Examples from our evaluation portfolio:

  • The Colorado Health Access Fund of The Denver Foundation. A multi-year grant initiative by a foundation aiming to increase access to behavioral health services for Coloradans with high health care needs.
  • Centura Health Actualize Community Health Demonstration Model. An innovative effort by a hospital system seeking to improve health in the clinic and in the community by more closely integrating the two settings. CHI is assessing the impact of primary care, health education, community engagement and environmental and policy changes on health outcomes.
  • Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics. A program by a statewide network of clinics focusing on managing the care for children with diabetes or elevated body mass index at two Aurora school-based health centers.


Smoothing the way toward reaching goals together.

CHI’s team is skilled in facilitating groups working to transform health care in Colorado. We have led meetings across the state to spur economic development in the health and wellness sector, and we have undertaken an “all-hands-on-deck” staff project to study regional health care needs and provide direct information to stakeholders.

Examples of our facilitation portfolio:

  • Governor John Hickenlooper’s Health Care Cabinet. CHI facilitated meetings of this group as it discussed its organizational structure.
  • Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. We facilitated meetings of the senior leadership team as it worked to identify strategic priorities.
  • Colorado Access. We facilitated meetings with the leadership team of this nonprofit health plan to develop a strategic plan.
  • Caring for Colorado Foundation. CHI facilitated meetings to discuss future grantmaking strategies.

Financial Analysis and Modeling

Making sense of dollars to understand health care costs now and in the future.

In Colorado, you can’t talk health without talking money – and vice versa.

More than a quarter of our state budget goes to health. And with medical expenditures continuing to grow, the questions about financing health and health care are only going to get tougher.

The unique skill set of CHI’s financial analysis and modeling team helps policymakers and community members understand the economic impact of existing and proposed policies. We navigate budgets and raw data sources. We look at how new incentives may change behaviors. We predict implications for future costs and revenue. And most importantly, we never forget the impacts on the health and access to care of Coloradans along the way.

Examples from our financial analysis and modeling portfolio:

  • Colorado Division of Insurance. We modeled the number of Coloradans who would be eligible for a variety of proposals to defray the cost of individual health insurance in mountain resort areas and across the state – and what it would cost to implement those plans.
  • ColoradoCare: An Independent Analysis – Finances. CHI developed an economic model to independently evaluate the financial viability of Amendment 69, the statewide universal health coverage system proposed in 2016.
  • Medicaid Expansion in Colorado: An Analysis of Enrollment, Costs and Benefits – and How They Exceeded Expectations. CHI examined the impacts of Colorado’s decision to expand Medicaid under the ACA using data from the state budget and developing projections through 2021.
  • Health Insurance Rates by ZIP Code. We drilled down to the ZIP code level to tell a detailed story about which Coloradans have health insurance and which don’t. This is essential information for enrollment outreach efforts.

Health Workforce

Supporting efforts to create a healthy workforce.

CHI has a great deal of experience analyzing the current health care workforce, identifying gaps and offering policy recommendations. We also understand the need to consider new models of care and how they may impact workforce needs. We know that a healthy workforce means healthier Coloradans.

Examples of our health workforce portfolio:

  • Nurse Physician Advisory Taskforce for Colorado Healthcare (NPATCH). CHI was asked to analyze data to evaluate the impact of the 2009 Nurse Practitioner Act on independent prescriptive authority for advance practice nurses (APNs).  CHI analyzed licensure data for APNs, the sub-set with nurse practitioner (NP) certifications, and the sub-set with prescriptive authority licenses (RxN). Our analysis looked at trends over this time with a focus on any identifiable changes following implementation of the 2009 law. 
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. We assessed the current and future demand for an emerging health care workforce – lay patient navigators – by conducting interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders and fielding a statewide survey among health care providers. Read our report.

Market Trends and Sense-making

Adding context and understanding to data and decisions.

CHI is often called upon to help make sense of new market developments, election results and policy changes. Our senior team offers keynote presentations in Colorado and on the national stage. We have been asked to give presentations at the Brookings Institution, the Academy Health National Health Policy Conference and the National Network of Public Health Institutes.

Policy Implementation

From the policy lines to the front lines, making it happen.

While our team excels at providing evidence and data around potential policy solutions, we also know how to take it a step further and help to forge implementation strategies. Our policy expertise makes on-the-ground decisions better and faster. Plus, we have experience in working with diverse groups to take a conceptual idea and make it concrete.

Example of our policy implementation portfolio:

  • Colorado Health Benefit Exchange. We chaired the workgroup formed during the creation of Colorado’s state-based health insurance marketplace that identified data collection needs and metrics for evaluation. The process involved public meetings and focused on developing criteria and guiding principles. The work group provided a final report on metrics for evaluation.

Project Management

Supporting innovative programs, ensuring successful outcomes.

The Colorado Health Institute is skilled in helping organizations successfully launch groundbreaking projects and achieve successful outcomes, on time and on budget. We facilitate short-term and long-term projects, offering services ranging from administrative and fiscal support to research and strategic facilitation. Our deep knowledge of data and national and state policy, coupled with clear communications, ensures that our clients reach their goals.

Examples of our project facilitation portfolio:

  • The Colorado Health Observation Regional Data Service (CHORDS). We are leading this unique project that will use electronic health records to improve community health. We received a two-year grant from the Colorado Health Foundation in 2016 to expand these efforts and move the project toward its goal of tapping clinical data to inform community health efforts.
  • Colorado Regional Health Connectors. We are developing and managing this program promoting connections among clinical care, community organizations, public health, human services, and other partners in close collaboration with the Trailhead Institute. CHI oversees funding for this program from the State Innovation Model (SIM) through a contract with the Colorado SIM Office.

Strategic Communications

Translating health policy to make it understandable and useful.

CHI’s award-winning communications team is noted for its skill in explaining complicated topics in clear language designed to promote better understanding of the subjects. In addition, we have top-notch report design, narrative story-telling, media relations, social media, data visualization and interactive mapping skills. We help clients think through how best to communicate their information and then produce reports, maps, dashboards and other communications products.

Examples from our communications portfolio:

  • The Colorado Health Report Card. This project with the Colorado Health Foundation includes an annual report card measuring health progress in Colorado as well as a series of supplemental reports looking deeper into single health topics throughout the state.
  • Health and Colorado’s Kids. This project is a series of interactive dash boards, accompanied by in-depth analyses, focusing on the rich new dataset provided by the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.

Analysis for Strategic Grantmaking

Helping to target philanthropy so it is effective for all Coloradans.

We have extensive experience supporting philanthropical foundations as they work to provide the funding that will best help the organizations and leaders working to make Colorado as healthy as possible. The Colorado Health Institute has conducted gaps analyses, provided data analysis, data mapping and data modeling, offered insight into Colorado’s health landscape and created crucial local-level information. We also contribute expertise as health foundations augment their role as thought leaders.

Examples of our strategic grantmaking portfolio:

  • The Colorado Health Foundation. We gathered data about health and the social determinants of health by region, county and Census tract and then synthesized it to describe health locally. The Colorado Health Foundation is using this information to help pinpoint ways to implement a deeper engagement with communities across the state.
  • Community First Foundation. We helped develop a theory of change model that informed CFF’s grantmaking strategy around mental health. We then facilitated grantee organizations through a series of learning circles that informed and evaluated individual efforts and overall outcomes.
  • The Denver Foundation. We conducted a statewide asset and gaps analysis to identify health care access challenges among Coloradans with the highest health care needs. We synthesized qualitative and quantitative data to develop recommendations for the Foundation. The analysis informed the strategic direction of the new, multi-year Colorado Health Access Fund.

Strategic Planning

Setting priorities, focusing energy, targeting resources.

Making the best decisions to meet your organizational goals can be daunting, especially in an age of tight resources and changing health landscapes. We are skilled at cutting through the noise, analyzing the data, providing context, and bringing our health care expertise to the table. We conduct environmental scans for clients and then help them to prioritize resources, sort through lines of business, understand the competitive marketplace, and more. 

Examples from our Strategic Planning Portfolio:

  • Mile High Health Alliance. We worked with a coalition of stakeholders in Denver — including representatives from public health, medical care, behavioral health, social and community services — that is working to address the city’s most difficult health challenges. The Alliance identified access to specialty care as one of its top priorities and engaged the Colorado Health Institute to develop an implementation plan for a new specialty care referral network pilot project.  We developed the plan based on a qualitative analysis of key informant interviews as well as focus groups with expert stakeholders.
  • Colorado Hospital Association. We conducted an environmental scan of the hospital marketplace in Colorado and then synthesized the findings into a report and presentation that itemized the factors that will help hospitals meet a changing environment.
  • SCL Health System. We facilitated annual board meetings and provided research into the communities served by SCL and analysis to support the targeting of community resources.
  • Colorado Office of Economic Development. The state selected the Colorado Health Institute to conduct statewide research, engage stakeholders during public meetings in communities throughout Colorado, and make recommendations on how Colorado and its communities could benefit from growth in the health and wellness industry. We wrote a final report titled “Healthy Economy, Healthy Colorado: A Strategic Action Plan for Colorado’s Health and Wellness Industry.”


Gathering the Data and Information to Inform Health Policy.

CHI has a wealth of experience leading the most important health-related surveys in Colorado. We are skilled in writing evidence-based survey questions, overseeing survey field operations, analyzing the findings and disseminating the survey information. We have conducted surveys related to health insurance, the health care workforce, the customer health experience and other topics.

Examples of our survey portfolio:

  • The Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS). We oversee the fielding of the CHAS, which is primarily funded by The Colorado Trust, as well as the dissemination of the findings. The CHAS, which is fielded every other year, is the premier source of information on health insurance coverage, access to health care and use of health care services in Colorado. More than 10,000 households in the state have been interviewed every other year since 2009, allowing comparisons across a time marked by sweeping changes in health policy.
  • Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS). We fielded and analyzed the first regional survey specific to the Medicaid Accountable Care Collaborative – the state’s signature effort to achieve the Triple Aim goals of lowering costs, improving health and providing a better experience for the client – for the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. The survey focused on understanding the experiences of Medicaid enrollees when getting needed care.
  • School-Based Health Centers. We lead an annual survey of the quantity and utilization of school-based health centers in Colorado. Our reports focus on services provided, who uses them and the changing landscape of school-based care in Colorado. This project is in partnership with the Colorado Association for School-Based Health Care (CASBHC) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.