Governor's Budget & Start of Session
Governor Doug Ducey, along with other statewide office holders, was sworn into office on Monday, January 5th. If you wish to view the Governor's inaugural address, click here.
State legislators were sworn into office on Monday, January 12th, marking the start of the 52nd Legislature's first regular session. If you'd like to view the Governor's State of the State speech, click here
. By the end of the first week, over 600 bills have been introduced. In fact, the American Civics bill has already been passed and signed by the Governor, requiring high school students to successfully pass the civics portion of the INS naturalization test.
On Friday, January 16th, the Governor revealed his budget, which can be found at the Office of Strategic Planning and Budget's website
. Be prepared for lots of details. The local print and electronic media have been covering the issues contained in the budget. Policy wonks are spending this 3-day weekend pouring through the document looking for details and implications for various public programs.
But let's give you the short version now. Be prepared for our ongoing updates in the coming weeks.
Health care front: The budget did not seek to repeal the restoration and expansion of AHCCCS. Plans were revealed to consolidate behavioral health services into AHCCCS by July 1, 2016 in order to improve coordination and efficiencies. Starting by April 1, 2015, a $40.1 M savings will be achieved through a 3% reduction in the rate that AHCCCS providers will receive. An estimated $11 M of the funding that goes to hospitals serving large numbers of AHCCCS patients will diverted to state coffers.
Corrections issues: Funding of $8.1 M has been requested to resolve the lawsuit against the Department of Corrections over inadequate inmate health care. There's also a request by Corrections for the first phase of up to 1,000 new prison beds for an additional $5.3 M. Over at Juvenile Corrections, there are plans to only admit children who are age 14 or older with a current or prior felony and without a serious mental illness. The county sending the youth will be responsible for 25% of the cost of incarceration.
DES/DCS issues: An additional 11 adult protective services staff positions are requested to respond to the growing number of abuse reports. Funding is requested to restore preventative dental services for ALTCS developmentally disabled adults. $4 M in funding for the CPS backlog will be shifted to preventive services. To address the need for additional foster care placement for teens, there is a request to increase foster care stipends while reducing placement in congregate or residential care.
K-12 Issues: Education advocates have been quick to point out that the Governor's budget proposal contains no request for the multi-year deferred inflation funding which is part of a lawsuit against the State. The budget does propose putting more money in classrooms by having schools reduce their maintenance and operations expenditures.
Higher Education Issues: Community Colleges in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties will have their state General Fund allocations cut by 50 percent. State funding for universities will be cut by $75 M, with student tuition fees possibly rising again.
There are lots of other details involving such budget tools as agency consolidation, hiring freezes, reallocation of funds and even "fund sweeps" from state agencies. It is a dynamic document that affects many aspects of our lives. More debate is already underway and we'll try to tap into the impacts as they become known. Supplemental issues of this newsletter will keep you in the loop.
The AHCCCS Battle Continues
During the 2013 legislative session, the restoration and expansion of AHCCCS was passed, with Governor Brewer signing the bill. We were dancing in the street.
But, hang on! There's been a convoluted path from the Governor's signature to the recent headline about the State Supreme Court sending the case back to Superior Court. It has been a rocky road, and there may yet be more detours. So, don't keep asking "Are we there yet?"
During summer 2013, opponents mounted an effort to gather signatures to send the bill to a vote of the people, but failed because insufficient signatures were gathered.
Subsequently, the thirty-six Republican legislators (in both the Senate and House) who voted in opposition to the bill brought legal action trying to stop the restoration and expansion. The core of their concern was that the funding underlying the plan depends upon a hospital assessment imposed by the AHCCCS Director. Their argument is that the assessment is a tax. Increases in taxes require a two-thirds vote which the restoration and expansion bill did not achieve.
Here comes Round 1: The Superior Court ruled against the legislators claiming they did not have standing (a legal term indicating that the legislators who brought this lawsuit didn't have sufficient connection to or harm from the law or action that is the basis of the legal challenge).
Here's Round 2: The legislators appealed to the Arizona Appeals Court who overturned the decision of the lower court and granted the legislators standing to bring the case.
Round 3: Governor Brewer appealed to the State Supreme Court. That Court ruled on December 31st again agreeing that the thirty-six legislators have standing to bring the suit.
Round 4: Now it's back to Superior Court with no date scheduled yet to get to the issues---tax or an assessment.
The debate will be whether or not a super-majority vote is required - in other words, is an assessment a tax or not?. The Brewer administration had argued that Prop. 108 (the origin of the two-thirds vote requirement) wouldn't apply because it includes an exception for fees and assessments that are "authorized by statute, but are not prescribed by formula, amount or limit, and are set by a state officer or agency." The 2013 law authorized the director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to set the amount of the hospital assessment.
When the State Supreme Court decision was announced, Governor Brewer stated, "I am abundantly confident that Arizona will ultimately prevail, and that the state will be able to focus on implementing one of the most meaningful and critical health care policies in years - the restoration of crucial, cost-effective care to thousands of Arizonans."
At issue is the fate of 279,007 childless adults restored to AHCCCS (as of the January 2015 report by the agency). In addition, 36,373 individuals who were added to AHCCCS because of the expanded eligibility of up to 133% FPL ($12,372 for a single adult), would be dropped.
There's NO change for now. But, it has indeed been a rocky road.
Changes for Greater Arizona
In mid-December 2014, the Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) announced the awarding of Regional Behavioral Health Authority contracts for the Northern and Southern regions of the state. The Northern Arizona contractor will be Health Choice Integrated Care which is a partnership between Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Authority (the current RBHA for the northern counties) and Health Choice Arizona, an AHCCCS health plan. The Southern region was awarded to Cenpatico Integrated Care which is a new organization partnering Cenpatico of Arizona (the RBHA for central and western Arizona, but not Pima County) and University of Arizona Health Network.
DHS and the award recipients are gearing up for the planned transition on October 1st. These contracts will integrate primary care and behavioral health care for the SMI populations enrolled in AHCCCS, similar to what's underway in Maricopa County.
A protest regarding the Southern region bid has been filed with a response by DHS due in the State Procurement Office in January.
The contracts for the Northern and Southern regions are scheduled to begin on October 1, 2015, and are three-year contracts with the option for two additional two-year extensions.
Did you make New Year's resolutions? If so, let's hope you're being successful in making those promises to yourself an actuality. Listed below are events that may foster your professional or personal development. We do ask that you share your events with us so we can let folks around the state know about what's going on.
1. Re-Entry Expo & Job Fair on Thursday, January 22nd
from 9 am to 2 pm
at the Maricopa Skill Center, 1245 E. Buckeye Road, Phoenix. A series of workshops, from resumes and applications, to dress-for-success, to interviewing, will be held during the day. No registration or fees are required. Hosted by a variety of community-based agencies such as Goodwill of Arizona, MAXIMUS, AWEE and David's Hope.
2. Community Partnership of Southern Arizona is hosting a Traumatic Brain Injury and Mental Health workshop on Thursday, January 22nd
from 8:30 to 11:30 am
. The event is free and will be at CPSA Training Center at Plaza Arboleda, 2502 N Dodge Blvd., Tucson. Register here
3. Cover Arizona is sponsoring a one-day Enrollment Event is on January 24th from 8 am to 8 pm at Atkinson Middle School, 4315 N. Maryvale, Phoenix. Click here
to reserve an appointment time.
4. 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, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 480-773-1528.
6. Community Partnership of Southern Arizona is hosting Youth Mental Health First Aid class on both Monday, January 26th
and Tuesday, January 27th
from 12:30 to 5 pm
at CPSA Training Center at Plaza Arboleda, 2502 N Dodge Blvd., Tucson. Register here
7. Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care will host the Child and Family Advisory Partnership on Wednesday, January 28th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Family Involvement Center, 5333 N. 7th St., A100. No cost to attend but please call 602-288-0155 to register. This will give you a chance to connect with providers and families.
8. Building Resiliency, a recovery and resiliency conference, on
Wednesday, January 28th
from 8:30 am to 4:15 pm
at ASU West Campus, 4701 W. Thunderbird Road, Phoenix. Registration fee is $75 for the day including parking, break, lunch and continuing education credit. Participants must register here
. Sponsors are ASU Center for Applied Behavioral Health policy, Marc Community Resources, Arizona Behavioral Health Corporation, Partners in Recovery, Phoenix Children's Hospital and Social Intelligence Institute.
9. 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 to reserve a space call 602-288-0155 or e-mail email@example.com.
10. NAMI of Arizona will be hosting their 2015 Annual Meeting and Celebration on Saturday, January 31st
from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm
at the Disability Empowerment Center, 5025 E. Washington Street, Phoenix. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
11. Father Matters is hosting a Healthcare Enrollment & Resource Fair on Thursday, February 5th, 2015 at the Burton Barr Library from 10 am to 2 pm. Community resources, application assistance for SNAP and Marketplace and educational workshops are offered. If your agency is interested in hosting a vendor table, please call 602-774-3298 or contact Jessica@fathermatters.org.
Mental Health America of Arizona always wants to 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