Assistant Commissioner Ellen Benavides
Ellen Benavides was appointed in January 2011 to serve as assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Health.
As assistant commissioner, Benavides [ben-ə-vē-dəs] is responsible for leading the Minnesota Department of Health’s Policy, Quality and Compliance Bureau. This bureau includes the Compliance Monitoring Division and the Health Policy Division.
MDH is the state's lead public health agency, responsible for protecting, maintaining and improving the health of all Minnesotans. The department operates programs in disease prevention and control, health promotion, community public health, environmental health, health care policy, and regulation of health care providers.
The department employs about 1,400 staff members in the Twin Cities and in seven offices in Greater Minnesota.
Benavides joined the health department from a career as an independent planning and policy consultant for nonprofit organizations and producer of documentary films.
Her consulting credits include designing a pilot project to integrate financing, housing, support services and managed care for homeless people diagnosed with mental health, substance abuse and/or AIDS; directing a multi-year research project to quantify the costs and risks associated with serving low income and vulnerable populations in a managed care system; and managing an education campaign about the costs, trade offs and priorities inherent in Minnesotans’ health care spending decisions.
Benavides previously served as director of Health Policy for Hennepin County. In that position she was responsible for developing the county’s health policy agenda and for designing and executing county-based health reform efforts to improve health care access for the uninsured.
She also served in Hennepin County as director of the Medicaid Demonstration Project, a federal initiative to monitor and evaluate the impact of transitioning from a fee-for-service to a managed-care system for Medicaid recipients, and as executive director of the Hennepin County Mental Health Association.
Her community and volunteer background includes chair of the Minnesota Internal Health Volunteers Development Committee; board member of the Powderhorn Cultural Wellness Center; president of the Minnesota Public Health Association; executive committee member of the Citizen’s League Board of Directors; member of the YWCA Women’s Health Advisory Committee, member of the Urban Coalition’s Health Advisory Committee and member of the work groups advising the Clinton Health Care Reform Task Force.
Benavides’ documentary film credits include “Unclaimed Children Revisited,” which describes the state of the children’s mental health system. It was commissioned by the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University and produced for the 24th Annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy.
“Minnesota Confidential” received the Minnesota Public Health Association’s Albert Justus Chesley Award. The film examines the potential repeal of the Minor’s Access to Health Care Act of 1971. “Healthy Moms and Babies” is about Somali childbirth.
Assistant Commissioner Benavides earned a master’s degree in hospital and health care administration from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in physiological psychology from Carleton College.