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In This Issue


May 15, 2015
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May.  During this month, media, local events and other public education outreach efforts will spread the word. 

Mental Health America, the national office, is actively involved with Mental Health Awareness Month with the ongoing focus this year being "Before Stage 4".  We did introduce this issue in December's monthly newsletter.

As a community we have become aware that with cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we aren't willing to wait years to seek treatment.  We've become familiar with a variety of prevention messages and campaigns such as not smoking, getting regular checkups, watching your diet and exercising.  We want to prevent those diseases and we respond to the first symptoms like a persistent cough, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar.  We don't wait.

The Before Stage 4 campaign challenges us, as a community, to do the same for individuals who are dealing with potentially serious mental illness.  We're asked to know about the risk factors and symptoms in order to catch them early.  Symptoms might be such things as loss of sleep, feeling tired for no reason, feeling low, feeling anxious, or hearing voices.   We need to not brush these symptoms aside.  We must address these symptoms early, identify the underlying disease, and plan an appropriate course of action on a path towards overall health.  Mental health conditions should be addressed long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process-Before Stage 4.

Mental Health America has several online screening tools here. These are an anonymous, free and private way to learn about your own mental health and see if you are showing warning signs of a mental illness. This only takes a few minutes.  When you are finished you will be given information about the next steps you should take based on the results. A screening is not a diagnosis, but it can be a helpful tool for starting a conversation with your doctor or a loved one about your mental health.

Remember, mental illness is common and treatable. There is a wide variety of treatment options for mental illnesses ranging from talk therapy to medication to peer support, and it may take some time for a person to find the right treatment or combination of treatments that work best for them.

It's up to all of us to know the signs and take action so that mental illnesses can be caught early and treated. We know that intervening effectively during early stages of mental illness can save lives and change the trajectories of people living with mental illnesses. Be aware of your mental health and get screened #B4Stage4 today! 
Changes for Human Rights Committees
During the 2015 Session, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill (SB 1400) that strengthens the statutory role and duties of Arizona's Human Rights Committees (HRCs).  HRCs oversee and monitor government and private programs serving Arizonans having serious mental illnesses (SMI).  HRCs make recommendations to Arizona's policymakers about services for this population. The new legislation, spearheaded by Senator Nancy Barto and co-sponsored by Senator Kelli Ward, improved the abilities of the HRCs to provide collaborative, independent, community-based oversight of programs for the SMI population. 

Among the key provisions of the bill:

*  Fosters greater collaboration between the HRCs, government, and providers;
*  Improves access to information and reports about quality of care and peer review findings related to (human) rights violations;
*  Expands membership to include current or former employees of mental health providers;
*  Requires human rights training by ADHS and each RBHA to ensure that providers are trained about clients' rights and the responsibilities of Arizona's HRCs;
*  Permits committee members to exchange information and engage in planning and coordination activities between members in the performance of duties.

HRCs are often overlooked as community resources for individuals, families, government and private organizations, including the RHBAs.  The new law creates a stronger framework for HRCs to provide independent oversight.  Mental health providers work hard to provide appropriate services to people with SMI, and make correct decisions.  Like all human endeavors, however, and particularly those serving vulnerable populations, "system" issues must be monitored and analyzed by independent groups as well as those directly involved in delivering services.  Passage of SB1400 strengthens the role of Arizona's Human Rights Committees to contribute to stronger mental health policy and a stronger community of practice in Arizona. 

To learn more about Arizona's HRCs or to inquire about becoming an HRC committee member, please visit here.
New Leaders
MHA-AZ is pleased to announce the election, at the May annual meeting, of the following officers for the Board of Directors.  Elected as Chair is Michael Shafer of ASU's Center for Applied Behavioral Health.   As Vice Chair, the members elected Joshua Mozell, an attorney with Frazer, Ryan, Goldberg and Arnold.  Kristina Sabetta who is the CEO for CHEEERS, is the new Secretary and Jason Bernstein will continue to serve as Treasurer.  Jason is Tax Director at McGladrey LLP.  Thanks and welcome to the new leadership as we begin planning for the program year 2015-16. 

We bid adieu to Sue Gilbertson who has served a 3-year term on the Board of Directors and chose not to stand for a second term due to her other commitments.  Sue has been a long-standing community advocate and champion for improved mental health services in Arizona.  We know she'll continue to be an ally and friend.  Have a good summer off, Sue, while you relax with family and friends in the mid-West.  

Stay tuned for coming activities as MHA-AZ continues forward.

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 newsletter, encourage them to simply click on the link here.  Let's share the word.  Time to get involved.
Eddie L. Sissons
Executive Consultant
Mental Health America of Arizona | | |