APHA Policy Statement on Child Separation

More than 2,300 children have recently suffered the traumatic experience of being forcibly separated from their parents by the federal government.  Despite the fact that the president has issued an Executive Order to end the practice, thousands of kids are currently separated from their parents.  Some of them are in various facilities in Arizona.

The American Public Health Association (our parent organization) issued a statement last week regarding the policy of child separation recently implemented (and now suspended) by the federal government.  Rather than paraphrase- I thought I’d just block and paste it below:

“The Trump administration’s policy of separating parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border will have a dire impact on their health, both now and into the future. 

“As public health professionals we know that children living without their parents face immediate and long-term health consequences. Risks include the acute mental trauma of separation, the loss of critical health information that only parents would know about their children’s health status, and in the case of breastfeeding children, the significant loss of maternal child bonding essential for normal development. Parents’ health would also be affected by this unjust separation.

“More alarming is the interruption of these children’s chance at achieving a stable childhood. Decades of public health research have shown that family structure, stability and environment are key social determinants of a child’s and a community’s health.

“Furthermore, this practice places children at heightened risk of experiencing adverse childhood events and trauma, which research has definitively linked to poorer long-term health. Negative outcomes associated with adverse childhood events include some of society’s most intractable health issues: alcoholism, substance misuse, depression, suicide, poor physical health and obesity.

“There is no law requiring the separation of parents and children at the border. This policy violates fundamental human rights. We urge the administration to immediately stop the practice of separating immigrant children and parents and ensure those who have been separated are rapidly reunited, to ensure the health and well-being of these children.”


AZ’s System for Regulating the Facilities Caring for Separated Children

Some of the children that have been separated from their parents by the federal government are being cared for in AZ at places run by an organization named Southwest Key. There are 13 such facilities in AZ.  They’re licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services and classified as Child Behavioral Health Facilities.  Even though they’re licensed by the ADHS, the agency doesn’t conduct routine unannounced inspections at them because they’re accredited by the Council on Accreditation.

Arizona law says that when a facility like this is accredited by an appropriate independent body, the ADHS shall accept the accreditation in lieu of a routine agency inspection. Specifically, ARS 36-424 (B) states that: “The (ADHS) director shall accept proof that a health care institution is an accredited health care institution in lieu of all compliance inspections required by this chapter if the director receives a copy of the institution’s accreditation report for the licensure period”.

However, the ADHS still has an obligation to investigate complaints at these facilities because ARS 36-424 (C) says that: “On a determination by the director that there is reasonable cause to believe a health care institution is not adhering to the licensing requirements of this chapter… (the ADHS) may enter on and into the premises…  for the purpose of determining the state of compliance with this chapter, the rules adopted pursuant to this chapter and local fire ordinances or rules.”

You can view the status of these facilities at www.azcarecheck.com and search for the words Southwest Key.  You’d be able to see the results of any complaint investigations or enforcement actions against these facilities- but not the backup accreditation documents from the Council on Accreditation.


Supporting Separated Children & Parents

A publication called “Child Trends” put out a blog last week entitled Supporting Children and Parents Affected by the Trauma of Separation that contains evidenced-based guidance for parents and officials.  Hopefully some of the persons within the federal government and care facilities are familiar with and are applying this important information (like Trauma Informed Care) in their policies and procedures like:


Federal Government Restructuring Proposed by President

Last week the President Trump unveiled a wide-ranging plan to reorganize many functions within the federal government.  The proposal is posted on the White House website.  It’s 132 pages long- but it’s formatted in a way that’s easy to follow – with an index and formatting that makes it easy to read.

It proposes reorganizing various federal government functions in a wide range of programs.  For example, it proposes creating a new Federal Food Safety Agency that would absorb the various USDA and FDA food safety programs- moving everything to a stand-alone food safety agency.

WIC and SNAP would move out of the USDA and into HHS. Environmental programs at the Department of Interior and the USDA would move over to the EPA.  It also proposes reducing the size of the US Public Health Service Commission Corps from 6,500 officers to 4,000 officers with a Reserve Corps for public health emergencies.  It also plans to merge the Education and Labor Departments to consolidate work force programs.

There are many, many other proposals, like privatizing the US Postal Service.

So far this is just a proposal from the President and his team.  Any such restructuring would need to be authorized by congress.  Here’s a link to the wide-ranging report.  Of course, we’ll continue to track the public health portions of this.  It seems super-unlikely to see any action before the November election.


Federal FY 19 Health-related Budget Bill

The House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee released the FY19 House Appropriations report. The bill includes $177B in discretionary funding, which is essentially the same as FY18.  Here’s a summary:


The bill proposes total funding level of $7.6 billion, or $663 million decrease from FY18, but most of the decrease is due to the transfer of the strategic national stockpile to another part of HHS.


The bill proposes a total funding level of $6.5 billion, a $196 million decrease from FY18. Title X Family Planning funding would be eliminated completely.  Primary Health Care would get a 7% decrease.


The bill proposes a total funding level of $5.6 billion for SAMHSA, a $448 million increase above FY18, mostly because the Substance Abuse Block Grant and the State Opioid Response Grants would be significantly increased.