SPRINGFIELD — Behavioral Health Network Inc. (BHN) announced the creation of a vice-president-level position to oversee social justice efforts and initiatives. BHN promoted Chelan Brown, formerly Social Justice director at BHN, into the new position of vice president of Social Justice.
Brown joined BHN in September 2020 when the organization created the Social Justice director role. In her previous role, she has worked collaboratively with staff and leadership to amplify and move forward the work toward racial and social equity within BHN and in the community at large. Through this work, it has become clear to executive leadership that the scope of BHN’s social-justice efforts require leadership at the senior leadership level.
“We have grown so much as an organization over the past year and a half and realize how much more we need to accomplish in pursuit of our vision of BHN as a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. We are so grateful for Chelan’s leadership and are thrilled to have her accept the promotion to vice president,” CEO Steve Winn said.
Brown has extensive experience in social-justice work, both in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. She previously worked at MGM Springfield as Construction Diversity manager, where she ensured the hiring of a diverse workforce and that women-, minority-, and veteran-owned companies were actively engaged and included in all bid opportunities for the construction of the casino.
“In my short time at BHN, I have witnessed the high level of commitment from the board of directors, executive leadership team, and staff to move us towards becoming a socially just organization that is committed to diversity, equity, and justice for those we serve,” Brown said. “I hope to build upon the great, innovative work the organization has done and look forward to continued work both internally and externally with community partners to reach our social-justice goals.”
Brown’s experience in the nonprofit sector includes serving as manager of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts’ Network Capacity Building department and as Community Engagement coordinator, where she coordinated the development of the Springfield Food Access Project. She was also a member of the Food Bank’s Management, Advocacy, and Diversity team.
Brown focused her early-career social-justice and community-organizing efforts on violence prevention and gang diversion. In 2005, she founded the nonprofit agency Alive With Awareness Knowledge & Empowerment (AWAKE), a violence-prevention organization in Springfield. There, she built a framework and created programs to ensure that youth of color and families were provided access to opportunities, support systems, and basic needs to live productive and successful lives.