A few months back, we paid tribute to Barbara Geller, then retiring as the long-time Director of the Statewide Services Division within the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS).
We don’t often publicize retirements, but Barbara was a special consideration. To us and many others, an exceptional person.
For more than 20 years, she had been a partner with CSH and a dedicated champion of programs meeting the diverse, unique mental health and addiction services needs of her state’s most vulnerable people, including those facing homelessness and other forms of housing instability.
We knew her passion, wisdom, the quality of her efforts, and the extent of her good works. She amazed us with her foresight and impact. Innovative, tireless and cheerful, her mission mattered to her and those she reached.
In her role at DMHAS, Barbara was one of the original leaders of the movement to establish supportive housing as the solution for chronic homelessness in Connecticut. She was instrumental in establishing Connecticut’s Harvard Ash Institute award-winning supportive housing funders collaborative, and helped ensure that DMHAS contributed state dollars for services in supportive housing year after year. Under her leadership, roughly 5,000 units of supportive housing were created statewide.
A visionary, Barbara also helped advance housing first and supportive housing as a solution to some of Connecticut’s most complex problems such as how to better serve super-utilizers of costly crisis and emergency care. She always emphasized long-term, lasting solutions over short-term gains.
Barbara was a vanguard among state behavioral health officials in seeing housing as critical to the mission of behavioral health agencies, even at a time when this nexus was not as accepted as it is today.
Her work not only improved the lives of many individuals and families in her own state, she is regarded as a national leader and true advocate for those most in need.
Barbara really cared about the people she served. She was more than a friend to supportive housing; she was one of those rare human beings who gave her heart and soul to making a difference for the thousands who benefitted from her drive and advocacy.
So when we learned this week that Barbara had passed from this life, our hearts were filled with deep sadness.
Our spirits, however, are lifted in the knowledge that she succeeded in building better lives for all around her and those she touched.
We are reminded that for everything there is a season.
We take great pride in having known and worked with Barbara, and in calling her our friend, and even greater comfort in knowing she lived every season to the fullest – leaving behind an incredible legacy of purpose and accomplishment transcending her time with us and the boundaries of her beloved State of Connecticut.
Barbara's lifetime of achievement is conveyed in her biography, published when she received a CSH Champion Award in 2014.
At the service honoring her life, Barbara was described as a "Woman of Valor" as conveyed in this poetic passage.