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Christopher O’Connell

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

2023 fellow

Christopher O’Connell is a public health leader who builds teams to innovate and thrive through change. Mr. O’Connell is a passionate supporter of community-led public health initiatives and cherishes the opportunity to design and deliver federal programs that empower community leaders.

He joined the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2018 and currently serves as the Deputy Director in the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, where he supports the 100-person team overseeing community substance use prevention grants, technical assistance, public engagement campaigns, and the Federal Drug-Free Workplace program. In this role, Mr. O’Connell infused innovation throughout the organization, including establishing the Office of Prevention Innovation, which amplifies emerging community interventions to the prevention field. He encourages his team to be steadfast in supporting communities and has championed hiring of Government Project Officers based in the communities they support.

Prior to joining SAMHSA, Mr. O’Connell spent 15 years supporting the Federal Government’s international HIV and AIDS program, including two tours in Africa supporting the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and seven years supporting programs in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia as the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator. While at PEPFAR, he saw the urgency of integrating physical and mental health services in communities hard hit by the HIV epidemic. He worked with community leaders to support their vision for building healthy, positive communities.

In his new role as a White House Leadership Development Program Fellow, Mr. O’Connell will be working with the Office of Management and Budget’s Evidence Team to support the implementation of the first ever President’s Management Agenda (PMA) Learning Agenda. Outside of work, Mr. O’Connell volunteers his time supporting public health efforts in his own community, including recently serving on the Alexandria Commission on HIV/AIDS. Mr. O’Connell has a master’s of business administration in healthcare management.

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