Mental Health Awareness – Community Engagement

Curtis Barnett, President and CEO of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, discusses his belief in the importance of addressing behavioral healthcare needs at the community level – through collaboration with local organizations that have demonstrated success in increasing access, improving outcomes, and reducing stigma. He talks about why he feels it’s so vital to invest in mental healthcare, reexamine our behavioral health service model, seek to provide intervention from early childhood through adolescence and into adulthood, and the power of leveraging community resources and partnerships to reach those who are experiencing behavioral health challenges.

Curtis Barnett serves as president and chief executive officer for Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield which serves more than 2 million members nationwide. As president and CEO, Barnett is leading Arkansas Blue Cross’ efforts to help transform healthcare, striving to make it more affordable and a more compassionate system. He has spearheaded new work on behavioral health and health equity and spoken nationally on such subjects as the importance of private and public collaboration for changing how healthcare services are reimbursed and the role of health plans in addressing the social determinants of health, especially food insecurity.

Prior to his election as president and CEO in 2017, Barnett served as senior vice president of Internal Operations for Arkansas Blue Cross and as president and CEO of its wholly-owned subsidiary company, USAble Corporation.

On the national front, Barnett serves on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Board of Directors. He leads as chairman of the Board of Directors for the National Institute for Healthcare Management (NIHCM) and as chairman of the Board of Managers for Blue Health Intelligence, a healthcare data analytics and solutions company.

In Arkansas, Barnett serves on several industry and community boards of directors, including the University of Central Arkansas Board of Trustees, where he serves as vice chair, the dean’s executive advisory board for the University of Arkansas Walton College of Business, the Arkansas Research Alliance, and the executive committee for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, where he serves as vice chair.

A native Arkansan, Barnett received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas, a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Arkansas and is a graduate of the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management’s Advanced Executive Program.


Barnett actively supports a number of charitable organizations, including the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which named him their Breath of Life honoree in 2015. His alma mater, the University of Central Arkansas, presented him with their Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2018.

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