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In This Issue


December 15, 2014

Changes in 2015 at the Capitol

In the style of the season:  "Yes Virginia, elections do have consequences."  The first event in the coming year will be the inauguration of Doug Ducey as Arizona's 23rd Governor on January 5th.  His State of the State will be delivered on the first day of the legislative session, Monday, January 12th.

As in prior sessions, the games have already begun.  Legislators are able to request bills be prepared now, but as we prepare this newsletter, only four bills have been pre-filed; that number is expected to grow between now and the first day of session.

In the Arizona House of Representatives, one-third of the 60-member body will be freshmen.  Newly elected members will have a lot to learn about the legislative process sandwiched in  the ebb and flow (mainly flow) of the coming hectic weeks. Two Representatives returning to the Capitol after a break working in the community are part of this freshman class.  The overall partisan split remains the same with 36 Republicans and 24 Democrats.

The Arizona Senate will welcome seven Representatives in their move to the upper chamber.  These newly elected Senators are more seasoned in the legislative process, but there are differences between the two bodies in their operational approaches.  The partisan split remains 17 Republicans and 13 Democrats.  

Both House and Senate finalized the task of committee assignments, balancing schedule logistics, political interests, and legislator requests, to create the structure that will govern the progress of legislation in the coming year. That list is not yet posted on the Arizona Legislature's website, which you may wish to mark as a favorite, but the list can be requested.

With the fiscal crisis Arizona is facing, with a $1 Billion shortfall for next year and a shortfall for this year of at least $500 Million, the Chair of Senate Appropriations Committee Senator Don Shooter, and Representative Justin Olson, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, will be key players in the debate and discussions on these issues.  The calendar for major state agency budget hearings has not yet been published, but it should be available online by the start of session.

There are a few guesses we can hazard based upon the focus reflected by committee assignments.  States' rights issues and the struggle over federal mandates will likely be enhanced by the creation the House Federalism and States' Rights Committee that is composed of a majority of members who have consistently fought against federal involvement in state policy, either as legislators or as legislative candidates. This is also true with the Senate Federalism, Mandates, and Fiscal Responsibility Committee which likewise has a majority of legislators with strong views against federal policies and state involvement.

Discussions on health policy will include the three legislators who are trained physicians. Dr. Randy Friese (a freshman) and Dr. Eric Meyer (both serving in the House) and Dr. Kelli Ward (serving in the Senate) are all familiar with health and healthcare policy.

Deadlines will loom immediately when legislative session begins.  Senators must submit requests no later than January 20th and have the bills filed by February 2nd.  The House imposes a seven-bill limit on members beginning January 15th with the last day to introduce bills set for February 9th.  

This will be a difficult year with the budget pressures, many newly elected members,  a new Governor and many complicated policy issues to debate.     
#B4Stage4 or @B4Stage4

Paul Gionfriddo, President of Mental Health America, launched a campaign this fall that focuses on mental illnesses and why, sadly, we wait until the final stages of this chronic disease process before treating and often use incarceration as a treatment modality.

Paul encourages us not to accept this reality.  Our community must move upstream, just as  has been happening with progress for many other chronic diseases or conditions.  

These interventions for mental health include:  

* First, screening everyone for mental health, just as we do for vision, dental, hearing, and blood pressure. Early detection is always a key to changing the trajectory of a chronic condition. Some argue that the reason for not screening for mental health is that we don't know where to refer people for treatment. But failing to screen ubiquitously hasn't moved mental health care out of the primary care office.

* Second, focusing on children. Half of all mental illnesses emerge during childhood. And yet ten years often pass between the emergence of symptoms and proper diagnosis and treatment. Those ten years offer many opportunities to change the trajectories of lives.  Serious mental illnesses during childhood have immediate impacts in two settings - the home and the school.

* Third, developing a range of treatment and support options for people with mental illnesses. Those investments would include such things as more social services options as well as clinical treatment options including the right medication to the right patient at the right time. Those services would include housing, employment, wrap-around services, and social supports have all been proven to reduce isolation and improve health. The effectiveness of Peer Support services is evidence-based.  

* Fourth, re-thinking both crisis stabilization and consumer choice in treatment. Everyone should be entitled to emergency health care when they need it.  

* Fifth, focusing on recovery.  

Join Mental Health America of Arizona's Network found at our website by adding your voice and efforts to those who want policy and programmatic investment in earlier identification and intervention "before Stage 4".  Engage our community in these discussions.     

Meet Sheri George

Please allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Sheri George.  I am the Chairman of the San Tan Valley Substance Abuse Coalition, founded in 2011. The primary missions of our all-volunteer coalition are to provide resource assistance to individuals and families who are suffering with mental health or substance abuse disorders, and to act as a navigation point to come back to if they do not get the help they need from referral entities.  We then dig deeper and go higher.  The coalition has expended over 3,500 hours of research reviewing Arizona's behavioral health care delivery systems.  Our organization has identified four key barriers to accessing care, along with solutions to overcome those barriers.  I am committed to working collaboratively with similar organizations and state officials, to remove barriers which prevent people from accessing treatment in Arizona.  I own a local business and have 23 years of middle management experience.  I am extremely pleased to serve on the Board of Directors for Mental Health America of Arizona, and I look forward to working with all of you.
Coming Events
In this season of holiday celebrations and lots of things to do, we want you to enjoy time with your family and friends, so please take some time to enjoy yourself. 

The following activities may help you complete this year and get your 2015 off to a good start.  Happy holiday season and Happy New Year!!  Please share your events with us so we can let folks know what's going on.  

1. Enroll in the ACA's Marketplace.  Open enrollment started on Thursday, November 15th and runs through February 15th, 2015.  This is indeed a shorter window, so let's get you or your family enrolled.  Go here to find a navigator or assister who can help you enroll.   
2.  Want to find a great setting to enjoy the seasonal lights?  Zoolights at the Phoenix Zoo is ongoing from now through January 11th.  You can meet Tortuga the Talking Galapagos Tortoise and Experience the Zoo's new 4-D theater with amazing effects including snow, fog and gusts of wind.  There's a Polar Express train that will take you around the Zoo.  The event is from 5:30 to 10:30 pm nightly.  Tickets are $18 for General admission.
3. Glendale Glitters, Historic Downtown Glendale dresses up for the holidays with the event starting at 5 pm through 10 pm nightly until January 10th.  The event is free.  
4. McCormick Stillman Railroad Park Holiday Lights has festive holiday lights and displays turning the Railroad Park into a winter wonderland.  Free admission at 7301 E. Indian Bend Road in Scottsdale.  Train costs are $3 and the carousel is $2.
5. Mental Health Awareness Coalition is sponsoring a scholarship open to individuals over 18 residing in Arizona.  Details on the application can be found at here.  Applications are due December 31st.  Questions, e-mail
6. Hanukkah is from December 16 to December 24th.
7. Native American Connections, People of Color Network and Phoenix Indian Center will host a Toy Drive, open house tour and last minute holiday shopping event on Friday, December 19th from 10 am to 3 pm.  Join folks at 4520 N. Central Ave., 3rd floor.
8. Winter Solstice is December 21st.
9. Christmas is December 25th.
10. Boxing Day is December 26th.
11. Kwanzaa is December 26th-January 1st.
12. New Year's Day, January 1st.
13. Quarterly Health Improvement Partnership of Maricopa County will host their meeting on January 13th, from 8:30 to 11:00 am at Banner Good Samaritan, 10th Street and McDowell Road.
14. Arizona Rural and Public Health Policy Forum will be held on Wednesday, January 14th from 8:15 am to 4:15 pm at the Arizona State Capitol.  Registration is required at a cost of $60.  Register here.
15. Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), a 2-day interactive suicide first aid workshop will be offered on January 15th  and 16th from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm at Family Involvement Center, 5333 N. 7th St., A100, Phoenix.  Register for free by e-mail pr call 602-288-0155. 
16.  GPS: Navigating Life in Transition, Saturday, January 24th from 1 to 5 pm, Phoenix Zoo, 455 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix.  Lunch, music and prizes.  Being offered by the Mercy Maricopa Youth Leadership Council and Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care.  RSVP to Heather Williams at or call her at 480-773-1528.
17. Mental Health First Aid Training on Friday, January 30th from 8 am to 5 pm at Family Involvement Center, 5333 N. 7th Street, A100, Phoenix.  Free for ages 16 and older.  Spaces are limited so reserve a space by e-mail  to or call 602-288-0155.

Mental Health America of Arizona wants to again acknowledge the support of Janssen Pharmeutical Company for our activities.  Corporate support is key to assuring there's a voice in the community. 

We invite your participation and sharing of this newsletter by forwarding to your friends and colleagues.  If they wish to receive the free newsletter, encourage them to simply click on the link here.  Let's share the word.  Let's get involved.
Eddie L. Sissons
Executive Consultant

Mental Health America of Arizona | | |
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