Legislative Session is Done!
The Arizona Legislature adjourned sine die, Latin for "without day", marking the end of the session for the Arizona Legislature, which is supposed to finish its work within 100 days. This year it finished in just 81 days - the shortest in decades. The last time the session was that short was in 1968. A total of 1,251 bills or measures were filed, with many not making it through the legislative process. At this writing, Governor Ducey had signed 226 bills into law and has vetoed 6 bills. A few stragglers remain, but the deeds have been done. Now, take a deep breath, and let out a sigh of relief.
Okay, the budget was signed, sealed and delivered in early March. There were good and bad things in the budget. As widely reported, there were cuts to education, community colleges and universities. In addition, cuts were made to child welfare programs and Arizona is now the only state limiting welfare benefits to only 12 months. We did lose funding for Mental Health First Aid and school-based prevention education. The budget issues were described in a previous newsletter. The future cuts that our provider community faces include a 5% reduction, with a total systems saving for the coming year projected at $37 M. The reduction may indeed impact the availability of providers and patient/client appointments. Comments on this process are outlined on the AHCCCS website here.
It is indeed technical but vital to the community.
A few providers and services are protected from the provider cuts, including nursing facilities and providers of Home and Community Based Services. In addition, payments to Indian Health Service and Tribal 638 facilities, Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics, and hospices were protected.
Let's review a few successes achieved this session to give us hope that our concerns have been heard and solutions developed:
SB 1212 (Chapter 154), dealing with the Behavioral Health Examiners Board, was largely a technical corrections bill dealing with prior problems in obtaining required professional licenses. The bill will allow tele-practice by November 15th.
SB 1283 (Chapter 158), dealing with outpatient treatment centers; co-location; respite, was passed as an essential component of efforts to promote integration. The bill gave clarification about how two providers could share space under a common license.
SB 1194 (Chapter 3), a state loan repayment program for medical professionals practicing in medically under served areas, now allows behavioral health professionals to be considered in the program. Items that will require ongoing monitoring and administrative advocacy include:
SB 1257 (Chapter 195) transfers the roles and responsibilities of the Division of Behavioral Health over to AHCCCS. This is part of the administrative simplification plan proposed by the Governor. The switch becomes effective July 1, 2016.
SB 1092 (Chapter 7)
requires AHCCCS to seek waivers from the federal government that would allow AHCCCS to:
- collects a premium for the expansion population (childless adults over 100% FPL);
- imposes a co-payment for non-emergency use of the ER;
- seeks an exemption from providing non-emergency medical transportation services;
- requires able-bodied adults receiving services to attend school or job training or both for at least 20 hours per week (exceptions are outlined); and
- limits the time an able-bodied adult can be on AHCCCS to 5-years, with exceptions if disabled, or being a sole caretaker for a child under age 6.
Participation in the public review of the waivers will fill our summer agenda.
Other issues which failed, but are expected to be back next session: 1) Developing ways to regulate sober living homes which have proliferated, unregulated and problematic, in the Prescott area. The issues are how to assure a continuum of care, and have housing that is non-discriminatory for individuals in recovery from substance abuse. 2) Developing service options for individuals who have committed crimes but have been deemed to be incompetent to stand trial.
The legislature will not be returning for regular session until January 2016. We have a reprieve from the weekly calendar of hearings and debates. But, there's plenty of advocacy work to be done as outlined, in part, above. It's always time, however, to continue your individual 'charge' of making friends with your legislator. You want to re-enforce messaging so that your legislator knows about mental health issues and ways to promote recovery and well-being. Let's get busy communicating and telling our stories. See your first opportunity described next.
Arizona Campaign for Change
Legislative session is over and we need to be heard about our policy and budget priorities both now and going forward. The Children's Action Alliance has launched this campaign which provides each of us an opportunity to join in and promote a state budget for a better Arizona future. You could say things like stop tax giveaways, invest in Arizona families, fund education so our kids have a future, fund behavioral health so people can recover.
Simple steps that you can undertake today but no later than May 8th: 1) Get a postcard with an Arizona theme at a local market; 2) Write a short message to Governor Ducey; 3) Sign you name and address; and 4) Stamp and send to CAA, 4001 N. 3rd St., Ste. 160, Phoenix 85012.
Children's Action Alliance will deliver these post cards so the Governor knows of the community's concerns. You could add to this effort by copying your message and sending your state legislators the same message.
Be a voice for Arizona's future!!
Maybe we've got the rest of April and May to enjoy the outdoors before the air conditioner season and we're running from shady spot to shady spot to stay cool. Listed below are some activities that can keep you busy.
Arizona Counselors Association will meet on Saturday, April 18th from 2:00-3:30 pm at Hob Nob's Café, 49 W. McDowell Rd. The event is free and a way to network. RSVP to email@example.com
Involuntary Commitment Process for American Indians Training on Monday, April 20th
from 8 am to 3 pm at the Desert Willow Conference Center. No registration fee and continental breakfast and lunch provided. Sponsored by ADHS/DBHS in partnership with ITCA, AzSH, AZ Attorney General's Office, AHCCCS and MMIC. Register at here
Tuesday, April 21st, In celebration of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Phoenix Children's Hospital is hosting a luncheon with a keynote address by Dr. Dipesh Navsaria on "Early Experiences Elevate Everything: Early Brain Development & the Future of Society", at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, 340 N. 3rd St., Phoenix, from 11 am. Free event, contact Claire@pcaAZ.org.
Greater Phoenix Child Abuse Prevention Council on Friday, April 24th
will host its 18th Annual Conference and Cherish the Children Award luncheon from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm on "The Mystery of Risk: Drugs, Alcohol, Pregnancy & the Vulnerable Child" with presenter Dr. Ira H Chasnoff. The event will be at the Roman Catholic Diocesan Offices, 400 E. Monroe St., Phoenix. Conference is $30 including lunch or $15 for the luncheon only. Register here
"Your Brain, Sports & Mental Health" on Sunday, April 26th, from 2-6 pm at the Black Canyon Conference Center, 9440 N. 25th Ave., Phoenix. An entertaining & education event with a panel of experts on this topic to inform you. Buffet-style refreshments with a silent auction. Price is $25 for adults and $15 youth. Tickets can be purchased online at www.azfbh.org
Devereux Arizona's 2nd Annual REACH Conference on Wednesday, April 29th
, from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm. Desert Willow Conference Center, 4340 E. Cotton Center Blvd., Phoenix. Keynote speaker is Yolanda Graham, M.D., Devereux Georgia's Medical Director. Cost is $129, register here
The Power of Wellness Luncheon will be on Thursday, April 30th
from 11 am to 1 pm at the AZ Biltmore Hotel, Phoenix. Join in recognizing and celebrating the outstanding accomplishments of our partners. Tickets are $75, purchase here
Mental Health Guild to celebrate May as Mental Health Awareness Month is sponsoring a fundraiser "Live on the Green Carpet", Saturday, May 2nd, at Starfire Gold Club, 11500 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale, Early Bird fee is $75 up until April 24th and $100 after that. Pay online at www.mentalhealthguild.org. Event is honoring Patsy Kelly, Steve Carter & Sam Engram with proceeds to benefit MIKID.
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