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Portrait of Melissa Stafford Jones

Melissa Stafford Jones

Director, Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative

California Health and Human Services Agency

Melissa Stafford Jones is director of the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative at the California Health and Human Services Agency (CalHHS). In this role she works with CalHHS departments, sister state agencies, and partners and stakeholders throughout the state to reimagine California’s children and youth behavioral health system into an innovative, upstream-focused ecosystem where all children and youth are routinely screened, supported, and served for emerging and existing behavioral health (mental health and substance use) needs. Prior to her appointment to CalHHS, she was executive director of First 5 Association of California, leading the organization’s strategies to advance a whole-child, whole-family, equity-centered early childhood policy and agenda. She served as regional director for the US Department of Health and Human Services from 2014–2017, and worked with local and state organizations, key stakeholders, and elected officials throughout the region to implement the Affordable Care Act, increase access to health care and social services, and improve the lives and health of diverse communities. Previously, she was president and CEO of the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, leading the organization’s strategy to advance public policies that support the essential role of the safety net and improve health status and access to care for low-income and uninsured individuals and communities. She holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley and a BS in biology from Saint Mary’s College of California.