DENVER | Aurora congressional candidate Andrew Romanoff has been named president and CEO of Mental Health America of Colorado, a longtime advocate for mental health systems and legislation.
“MHAC’s work is literally a matter of life and death,” Romanoff said in a statement. “It’s a cause that touches every family, including my own. I’m grateful for the chance to make a difference.”
Romanoff later disclosed that the decision to take the job was also personal. In January his cousin, who he said he was close to, committed suicide.
“It’s been a horrible event for the whole family,” he said. “She took her life in part because she must have been suffering from a very deep depression which she never disclosed. She didn’t tell me she was feeling suicidal, it was a complete shock.”
Romanoff, former Colorado House, speaker ran against Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman for the 6th Congressional District seat last year, coming up short in one of the most expensive congressional battles in the nation.
“The reason I ran for office in the first place was to make a difference in the lives of people that needed help. This was a compelling cause to me. I’m glad the board gave me this opportunity,” he said. He added that he has no future plans to re-enter the political arena at this point.
He replaces Donald J. Mares, who was recently appointed to a Denver mental health position.
“We were looking for a dynamic, inspiring and seasoned professional who could lead the next chapter in our 62-year history in Colorado,” said MHAC Board Chair, Chuck Reyman. “We are confident that Andrew is that kind of leader. The Board of Directors of MHAC could not be more excited to know that all Coloradans will benefit from his leadership on mental health and substance use disorder issues in the years to come.”
Romanoff won election to four terms in the Colorado House of Representatives, including two terms as Speaker of the House. He earned bipartisan recognition as one of the most effective legislative leaders in America.
Romanoff will lead MHAC’s efforts to end the stigma of mental illness and to make Colorado a national leader in addressing mental health and substance use disorders, officials said. The organization’s programs include pro bono counseling and referrals, youth education, Mental Health First Aid, and public policy advocacy.
Romanoff served as a policy advisor to Gov. Roy Romer, as a scholar-in-residence at the University of Colorado’s School of Public Affairs, and as a senior associate at the management consulting firm of Greenberg Baron Simon & Miller. He founded the Posner Center for International Development, a collaborative headquarters for 60 Colorado-based nonprofit organizations.
Officials said Romanoff begins the position April 1.