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In This Issue


Board of Directors 
Michael Shafer, Chair  
Joshua Mozell, Vice Chair  
Kristina Sabetta, Secretary  
Jason Bernstein, Treasurer

Jack Beveridge
Max Dine, M.D.

Sheri George
Charles Goldstein, M.D
Laurie Goldstein

Emily Jenkins
Marcus Johnson
Barbara Lang

Karen Pitico
Clarke Romans
Coming Events

Regional Behavioral Health Authority Calendars: 
Cenpatico Community Events
Mercy Maricopa Community Events 
Health Choice Integrated Care Community Events 
AZ Center for Applied Behavioral Health, Upcoming Events

Arizona Trauma Institute Trainings 
Family Involvement Center Calendar 
Mental Health First Aid trainings
Pima County,Or Contact at Steve Nagle,

Maricopa County Or Contact Lyle Mazer at

Northern Arizona:No online schedule. Contact: Trever Davis at 
Arizona Coalition for Military Families

January 15, 2016
2016 Session Started on January 11th

When this newsletter is published, the 2nd Regular Legislative Session will have convened and we're "off to the races".  

As the legislature comes into session there are a few new faces, as legislators have resigned to run for other offices or moved onto the private sector.  Senator Ed Ableser resigned to move to Nevada.  His replacement is Andrew Sherwood who moved over from the House of Representatives to complete the year as District 26's State Senator.  The Maricopa Board of Supervisors appointed Celeste Plumlee to replace Sherwood.  Additionally, Senator Kelli Ward (R- District 5) resigned to pursue her run for the U.S. Senate against John McCain.  Her replacement is Sue Donahue.  Representative Victoria Steel resigned on January 11th to run for Congress.  Her replacement will be named shortly.

You can practice your advocacy in your PJs from home by link to the legislative website here then click on "Live Proceedings" on the left side of the home page to view actual hearings.  If you don't know who your legislators are, just click on "How Do I Find My Legislators" also on the left side.  Arizona's legislative website is a rich source of information so poke to become familiar with it.  The Governor's State of State presentation can be found here.

On Friday, January 15th, the Governor will reveal his budget. Policy wonks will again spend the MLK weekend identifying key provisions and sorting out what all of this means for our community.  

The calendar rules much in the days and weeks ahead at the Legislature.  Senate members have to have their bills introduced no later than February 1st while the House members have to have a deadline of February 8th.  If advocates wait until these deadlines, their issues probably won't see the light of day.  There's a reason to use the time between sessions wisely and do the necessary homework to inform, educate and court members so they'll know your issues. 

If the State Legislature wants to end by the 100th day of session, we will bid to them adieu by mid-April. There are rumors afloat that we could see even a shorter session with the budget being disposed of by February. There will be perhaps 1,000 bills introduced, somewhere between 200-300 bills passed and a budget approved for about $9.2 billion dollars.

As the American humorist Will Rogers noted, "I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."  Will this session promote the well-being of Arizona or will this be a session that pits groups against each other?

 Good News, Bad News

Arizona's improving economy brings the good news that more jobs are available for Arizona workers, but the lower unemployment rate is bad news for some Food Stamp recipients.

Following the welfare reform debates in 1996, the federal government placed a limit on how long able-bodied childless adults between 18 and 49 years could receive Food Stamps (known officially as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP).  Food Stamps were restricted to only 3 months in a 36-month period, unless the recipient was participating in training or working at least 20 hours a week.  During the recent recession, however, the feds removed the time limit in many parts of the country experiencing high levels of unemployment.  

All of Arizona has benefited from the waiver of the time-limit.  However, when individual county unemployment rates fall below 10 percent, the waiver ceases.  In December 2015, Maricopa County lost its waiver and about 21,000 individuals may lose their Food Stamp benefit.  The waiver is expected to expire in Pima and Yavapai counties later this year, but DES has not identified when or how many people will be affected when the waiver is lifted in those counties.

Some able-bodied childless adults affected by the re-imposition of the 3-month time limit can apply to DES for an exemption which will allow them to continue receiving SNAP benefits.  Those exemption categories are:
1. Having a disability or caring for an individual with a disability;
2. Being in a drug or alcohol treatment program;
3. Being chronically homeless;
4. Being pregnant;
5. Attending school at least a part-time;
6. Being employed for more than 20 hours a week; or
7. Receiving unemployment insurance.

Anyone who falls into any of those exemption categories will need to provide proof to DES, i.e. a letter from a doctor stating the reason for the disability and the length of time the person is expected to be unable to work.  To request the exemption, individuals should call (855) 432-7587, Monday-Friday, 8am to 5pm.  Those who are impacted have received notices from DES and need to act quickly.  It is important for us to assist those who have questions or concerns.
Let It Go, Lift the Freeze

For the fifth year in a row, Arizona had the third highest child uninsured rate in the nation.  In 2014, 10% of Arizona's children were uninsured for health compared to about 6% nationally. This year was supposed to be different as Arizona was poised to make major progress under full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The continued freeze of the state's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as KidsCare, slowed down our progress and prevented Arizona from realizing more significant coverage gains for children.  Arizona continues to hold the dubious distinction as the only state in the nation without a functioning CHIP program.

In 2010, Arizona's leaders "temporarily" froze KidsCare, just before the ACA was signed into law.  Then-Governor Jan Brewer cited state budget shortfalls resulting from the recession as the reason for the "temporary" freeze.  Nearly six years later, that "temporary" is still in place, but the state budget can no longer be used as a justification for keeping children out of KidsCare.  The state would receive 100% federal financing to reinstate KidsCare at no cost to the state budget thanks to the increased matching rate that was put in place when CHIP was reauthorized last year.  There is no reason to continue to allow Arizona children to fall through the cracks.  Accepting full federal funding to lift the freeze on KidsCare would help Arizona dramatically reduce the number of uninsured kids in Arizona and help create a brighter future for our state and our children.

Health coverage during childhood helps children achieve academically and grow up to become healthier and more economically successful adults.  If Arizona continues to allow children to fall through the cracks, our state will not keep up with neighboring states.  Nevada and Colorado were the two top performers nationally in reducing their child uninsured rates.  Arizona can quickly catch up with our neighbors and improve the health and well-being of children by lifting the freeze on KidsCare.  It will cost the state nothing to do the right thing!  Ask your legislators to sign on to a bill to undo the freeze!  "Let It Go"! 
Behavioral Health Services Now Available in Pinal

Four years in the making, the first behavioral health facility in San Tan Valley opened its doors Tuesday, December 8th, 2015.

In October, 2011, a group of concerned residents, seeing the overwhelming frustration and despair of local Pinal County families caught in the grip of system barriers and desperately trying to locate behavioral health care assistance for afflicted loved ones, felt the urgent need to join together to form the all-volunteer San Tan Valley Substance Abuse Coalition.  At the first coalition meeting the founding members agreed "our long term outcome is for San Tan Valley to become a safe, receptive environment for recovery for both substance users and their families. This culture shift will be an environmental outcome of multiple strategies."  Soon, multiple sectors of Pinal County came to participate in monthly meeting discussions, helping to identify key strategies that would result in meaningful sustainable solutions for San Tan Valley.

A top priority emerged from these coalition discussions:  42.7% of individuals aged 24-49, who had a substance use disorder had a co-occurring mental health disorder. Both maladies must be addressed to achieve the most successful outcome. From this truly incredible collaboration of a cross section of many voices, Coalition members, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, the Pinal County Attorney's Office, Rural Metro Fire/Ambulance, and other County Officials joined together to address the stunning fact that there were no behavioral health treatment services within the borders of the San Tan Valley and Florence communities, despite a population over 125,000.

LaFrontera EMPACT Suicide Center offers comprehensive behavioral health services to youth, adults, and families, both in the home and at their new San Tan Valley facility, located at 2424 E. Hunt Hwy., Suite 100, San Tan Valley. (Call 480-784-1514, ext. 2265 for an appointment.) Now the sheriff's office and Rural Metro are able to bring clients to the local facility at any time, day or night. Special thanks go to Mercy Maricopa and Cenpatico for their contribution to this effort.

Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, "Everyday our deputies encounter people with mental health issues and there have been few options for us to help them. Our jails are full of inmates with mental health issues and as a community we should invest in proactive intervention prior to criminal actions which result in arrest and incarceration."

The San Tan Valley Substance Abuse Coalition provides resource assistance to individuals and families suffering with behavioral health disorders, and then acts as a navigation point to return to, if the afflicted person does not get the help needed from referral entities. The Coalition then works harder and looks farther to find them the help they need. Call 480-525-3562 for more information.

Mental Health America of Arizona 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 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 | | |