It’s Public Health Policy Showtime

The 2020 Legislative Session and it’s showtime for public health legislative advocacy. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be trying to influence our Arizona elected officials to make evidence-based public health policy decisions.  Each week we will have an ask or two from our members to contact their Legislators and to sign up in favor of or against bills that will be under consideration in the next few days. 

If you haven’t yet signed up on the www.azleg.gov system yet please do that in the next few days so you’ll be prepared to add yours to our collective public health policy voice.  The instructions for signing up for the state legislature’s website is in this blog post from a couple of weeks ago this blog post from a couple of weeks ago.

Hundreds of bills have been proposed so far and we now have a starter list of those that we’ll be focusing on. This list will build and then shrink in the coming weeks.  Below is where we are right now.  We have 2 action items for you this week:

This Week’s Member Action Items:

HB 2608  Overdose; Disease Prevention (syringe services) will be heard in the House Health and Human Services Committee at 9 am on Thursday January 30.  Please sign in to the azleg system and express your support for this important bill.  It will decriminalize syringe services programs in Arizona. 

It’s currently a felony to provide syringes to injection drug users via a syringe access program even though these programs are evidence-based programs that reduce the spread of Hepatitis C, HIV and other bloodborne pathogens and engage injection drug users in treatment.  We have supported bills like this for the last several years, but they have yet to be successful.

SB1170  AHCCCS Dental Care for Pregnant Women will be heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday morning at 9 am.  This bill from Sen Carter would expand oral health coverage for pregnant women enrolled in AHCCCS to include preventive and other services.  This is a terrific bill for public health because a mom’s oral health status is directly linked to birth outcomes. 

A new systematic review found a clear relationship between periodontal disease and pre-term birth, low birth weight and preeclampsia (potentially dangerous high blood pressure during delivery).   

Here’s the list of bills that we’re conducting advocacy for and against so far:

Tobacco Control

HB2636   Tobacco Retail Licensing –  AzPHA Supports

This bill (sponsored by Representative Blackman) would facilitate a licensing system for stores that wish to sell tobacco products including e-cigarettes.  It also references the amendment to federal FDA law that raises the tobacco sale age to 21.  This bill would be helpful to ensure compliance with the new federal age standard. The licensing system would be coordinated by the ADHS and begin on January 1, 2022.

HB2637   Tobacco Definition –  AzPHA Supports

This bill (sponsored by Representative Blackman) will define electronic cigarettes as a tobacco product for the all purposes of state law (although I don’t think that this would extend for tax purposes although I’m not sure yet).

HB2173   Smoke Free AZ Act Amendments –  AzPHA Supports

This bill sponsored by Representative Kavanagh would amend the voter approved Smoke Free Arizona Act to include electronic cigarettes.  Because this amends a voter approved initiative it will need a supermajority vote in the legislature.

Immunizations

HB2050 Immunizations; Parental Control – AzPHA Opposes

This (Fillmore) bill would essentially get rid of the current system by which schools track whether students are vaccinated or not.  Currently, parents decide whether to vaccinate their children and schools can’t require students to receive the recommended immunizations OR refuse to admit or otherwise penalize a student because the student has not received the recommended immunizations as long as the parent signs a personal exemption. Bad bill

HB2486  Immunization Requirements – AzPHA Opposes

This bill would basically do away with the FDA vaccine approval process and replace it with criteria set by this law for the purposes of implementing vaccination requirements.  The FDA has a rigorous approval protocol that includes all the core elements to determine whether they are safe and effective.  The data are reviewed by independent panels and approved using rigorous protocols.

This bill adds a series of additional requirements that, unless met, mean that a vaccine is eliminated from any vaccination requirement. It’s basically an IED to get completely rid of all vaccination requirements.  Bad bill.

Oral Health

HB 2244 Dental; Native Americans –  AzPHA Supports

This bill would require AHCCCS to seek federal authorization to reimburse IHS and tribal facilities to cover the cost of adult dental services that are eligible for a federal medical assistance percentage of 100%.  Authorizes AHCCCS to seek CMS approval to reimburse Indian health care dental providers that receive 100% FMAP for the cost of dental services. Passed House Health 9-0 this week.

HB2423 & SB1170  AHCCCS Dental for Pregnant Women –  AzPHA Supports

These bills from Rep. Butler & Sen Carter would expand oral health coverage for pregnant women enrolled in AHCCCS to include preventive and other services.  This is a terrific bill for public health because a mom’s oral health status is directly linked to birth outcomes.

A new systematic review found a clear relationship between periodontal disease and pre-term birth, low birth weight and preeclampsia (potentially dangerous high blood pressure during delivery).   The implications of the study are profound.  

HB2535  Preventive Dental Care (AHCCCS) –  AzPHA Supports

This bill from Representative Shah would boost the adult oral health coverage for Medicaid members to include two regular cleanings, fluoride 15 treatment, and one set of X-rays annually.  We are in support of this common-sense bill.

Social Determinants

HB2104 Child Care Assistance and Training –  AzPHA Supports

This bill would let ADES waive work requirements for people enrolled full time in an accredited educational institution in order to continue to provide supplemental child care assistance subsidies for the dependent child. 

Disease Control

SB 1028   Public Health Surveillance –  AzPHA Supports

Adds “an emerging public health threat to the list of things that can trigger ADHS enhanced surveillance orders and compliance with mandatory public health interventions.  The idea is that the bill would provide enhanced surveillance authority for emerging public health threats that aren’t yet a full public health emergency- along the lines of doing enhanced surveillance when persons were getting severe lung illnesses from the bootleg vaping products that contained vitamin e acetate.

Workforce

SB 1167 Graduate Medical Education – AzPHA Supports

This important bill from Sen Carter would set up a program to reimburse primary care residency programs and qualifying  Community Health Centers.  This bill is important because it addresses the shortages that we face in rural and under-served areas by setting up residency programs that will have a ling-term positive impact on access to care (especially primary care) in these areas. 

HB 2296 Native American AHEC – AzPHA Supports

This bill would create a sixth Area Health Education Center (AHEC) that will focus on the Indian Health System. AHECs are committed to expanding the health care workforce, while maximizing diversity and facilitating distribution, especially in rural and under-served communities and offer creative, hands-on and innovative health career curriculum for pre-college level students.

Vulnerable Populations

HB 2608  Syringe Services – AzPHA Supports

This bill would decriminalize syringe services programs in Arizona.  It is currently a felony to provide syringes to injection drug users via a syringe access program even though these programs are evidence-based programs that reduce the spread of Hepatitis C, HIV and other blood-borne pathogens and engage injection drug users in treatment.  We have supported bills like this for the last several years, but they have yet to be successful.

HB 2549 Adult Protective Services Audit – AzPHA Supports

A recent report from the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council has identified several critical shortcomings in the performance of the Adult Protective Services program at the Arizona Department of Economic Security. This bill would charge the Auditor General’s Office with contracting for an independent evaluation of APS’ performance- an evaluation that is sorely needed.  It includes a $300K appropriation to conduct the review.

SB 1086 Licensing Surveyors –  AzPHA Supports

Appropriates $3M & 44 staff positions in FY 2021 for additional (ADHS) long-term care facility surveyors.  Normally, these services would be paid for via a licensing fee.  In this case, the bill contemplates a general fund appropriation. 

The genesis of this bill is as a result of the 2019 Auditor General’s Report that found the ADHS is not adequately following up on complaints at skilled nursing facilities in Arizona. Passed Senate Health 8-0 last week.

HB 2031   School Marshals – AzPHA Opposes

Lawmakers just introduced a new bill that would bring guns into Arizona schools.  HB 2031 would create a school marshal program that would allow school employees across Arizona to carry concealed firearms on school grounds, during school hours.  There is no evidence in the literature that we could find to demonstrate that this is an evidence-based intervention to prevent violence and injury in schools so we are opposing the measure.

SB 1164 Severe Threat Order of Protection – AzPHA Supports

This bill would create a new kind of severe threat order of protection (with judicial review) and place new requirements for persons for who the orders have been issued including prohibiting the person from buying or having a firearm during the order’s duration.

SB 1169 School Health Program – AzPHA Supports

This bill from Sen Carter would support the costs of placing nurses and psychologists in Arizona public schools. The bill includes a detailed list of application standards for schools.

Nutrition

SB1221   SNAP; benefit match –  AzPHA Supports

This bill would direct an appropriation of $800K to the ADES to develop the infrastructure to create a produce incentive program within SNAP (food stamps) and to help enrollees to buy Arizona grown fruits and vegetables. 

Candid Report on Protecting Vulnerable Adults from the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council 

The Arizona the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council- expands resources through planning for folks with developmental disabilities and their families. The Council advocates for folks of all ages to achieve the highest possible level of independence while being included in the life of the surrounding community.  

This week they released an important (and candid) report entitled “Abused and Neglected: A Roadmap for Improving Arizona’s Adult Protective Services.  It’s a thoughtful report that identifies key shortcomings of the current Adult Protective Services system and provides some common-sense recommendations to improve the current system.  It’s only 24 pages long so don’t pass on reading it because you thought it would be too lengthy!  Here are some of the conclusions and recommendations:

  • APS should complete an outside audit of its operations. Any new system, intake, investigation, or data collection system should be first informed and tested by APS staff before program-wide implementation. Staff are the most knowledgeable of the shortcomings of the current system and can suggest immediate applicable solutions.

  • APS should be adequately funded to ensure accountability, transparency, and effectiveness.  Continuous state funding is needed to increase the number and quality of staffing, improve training, and support a data reporting system that ensures responsiveness to vulnerable adults and their families. Incremental increases in funding are not enough to foster significant improvement in the effectiveness of APS. 

  • Changes need to be made to Arizona’s APS program to build public trust and increase its effectiveness. First and foremost, there needs to be more transparency about how APS conducts investigations. APS must increase outreach to educate agencies and the public about the role APS plays in the protection of vulnerable adults in our communities throughout the state.

  • Collaboration with police and family advocacy centers, which offer forensic interviewing and victim services, can strengthen investigations and increase substantiation rates. The extent of collaboration between law enforcement and APS varies across Arizona but must be strengthened to ensure adequate protection of vulnerable adults.

  • Current state law does not give APS authority to investigate and substantiate cases of emotional abuse. For people with I/DD, bullying and intimidation are pervasive and lifelong concerns. APS authority needs to be expanded to include investigating incidents of emotional abuse.

Sadly, the executive budget released by the Governor last week didn’t propose any additional investments ADES’ Adult Protective Services Program nor were vulnerable adults mentioned in the state of the state address.

There are a couple of bills out there including HB 2549 which would charge the Auditor General’s Office with contracting for an independent evaluation of APS’ performance- an evaluation that is sorely needed.  It includes a $300K appropriation to conduct the review.  HB1086 would  appropriate $3.3M to ADHS for 44 staff to investigate nursing home complaints.  

Perhaps this important (and surprisingly candid) report that came out of his executive branch will raise awareness that Arizona’s Adult Protective Services program needs some attention and resources.

Also, make sure to read the article in today’s Arizona Republic about the shortcomings of our Adult Protective Services system. Very informative.

APHA Webinar: Advocacy in the Current Political Climate: Know the Rules and Get Involved

This free webinar is designed to help new and advocates understand the general ethics and legalities related to lobbying and advocacy. The presentation will address common advocacy and lobbying restrictions for employees in non-profit organizations and government agencies and the activities that public health advocates can participate in regardless of their employer and/or profession (yes, even you, state employees!).

The webinar will be held at 3 p.m. ET/noon PT on Monday, February 3. Those who RSVP will receive an emailed link before the event. You can RSVP here

APHA will cap this at 100 attendees, but we will make a recording available, as well. Please let me know if you have any questions! 

Governor’s Budget Request Summary

Every mid-January Arizona Governor’s propose their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year. Those budgets set the governor’s priorities and can be influential in what ultimately comes out in the budget. The extent to which the governor’s budget drives the ultimate outcome depends a lot on the relationship between the governor and the majority party in the legislature chambers.

The relationship between the current governor and the majority party in the legislature is cozy and so in the era that we’re in right now- the content of the gov’s budget will likely closely resemble what ultimately comes out this session.

The governor released his budget last Friday and there were some good things in it but also some disappointments. Here goes a summary of his proposal.

Good Things in the Proposed Budget

Newborn Screening Expansion

Arizona’s newborn screening program is run out of the ADHS public health laboratory.  The team tests newborns for a series on metabolic and other disorders and gets the information back to doctors and parents fast so that they can make quick interventions that are critical to good outcomes.  The program is funded by a fee that hospitals and health plans (and AHCCCS) pay for the services which include testing blood spots immediately after birth and again with a new blood spot after a few days.

The program currently bills $36 for the first test (the blood spot test that’s collected right after birth) and $65 for the second test which is collected several days later. The governor’s budget proposes combining the fees into one and boosting the total from $101 to $113.

More revenue would come to the program because of the higher fee ($12 total) and because collections would increase because there would only be one bill.  The extra money would cover the deficit that the program is currently running and allow them to  do 2 additional tests now recommended by HHS:

1) spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder that affects motor nerves; and

2) X-linked Adrenoleukodystrophy, which causes deterioration of myelin, reduces the ability of nerves to communicate with the brain.

Childcare Help for Working Families

The Child Care Development Fund provides subsidies that help low-income working families and foster parents afford childcare. The proposed budget increases funding for the Development Fund by $55M which would go toward boosting rates to childcare providers that participate in the program (which should hopefully build the network and perhaps even get rid of the waiting list).

Some of the money would also go toward providing incentive bonuses to quality childcare facilities ranked by First Things First and help unranked facilities achieve certification.

The folks that can participate in the program include low-income parents who are working; teen parents in school and residents of homeless or domestic violence shelters.

Assistance to Kinship Families

The governor’s budget proposes increasing what is called “kinship assistance funding” which is financial assistance for family members who are caregivers for children that’s called “kinship care.”

Last year Arizona extended the eligibility to all caregivers, regardless of income levels, without filing an application. This year, the proposal is to double the “Grandmother Stipend”.

Suicide Prevention

There have been some solid interventions in the last year to help reduce suicides in Arizona enhancing crisis-response teams, expanding suicide-prevention resources, initiating a campaign to address social isolation, and establishing a Suicide Mortality Review Team. I reviewed some of that in last week’s policy update.

The governor’s budget proposes a general fund appropriation of $400K to help with the work at the Suicide Mortality Review Team. We expect additional evidence-based policy interventions to result from the surveillance work that the Team will undertake using this appropriation.

Protecting Vulnerable Adults and the Elderly

The governor’s proposed budget proposes increasing some (targeted) reimbursement rates to providers of therapy and respite and habilitation care (hopefully stabilizing and improving the availability of those serves for folks that qualify).  The proposal is to increase state funding by $5M which would bring in an additional $11.7M in federal matching funds.

The budget also proposes reimbursement rate increases for providers of aging and adult services for vulnerable and homebound adults and seniors. That increase is $1.5M plus the federal match.

Interestingly, he also proposes tapping the Medical Marijuana Fund to the tune of $6M to provide health care services to 18,000 uninsured or underinsured Arizonans who need treatment for substance abuse. No match or general fund impact with that one.

Disappointments in the Proposed Budget

Adult Protective Services

We had hoped that the governor would have recognized (as did the vulnerable adult task force did) that ADES’ Adult Protective Services needs additional funds and technology to better follow up on neglect and abuse complaints of vulnerable adults. No additional resources were proposed by the governor for this important need. 

Hopefully legislators will recognize the performance shortcomings in the Adult Protective Services program and determine whether additional funds are needed or whether processes and/or personnel and leadership need to change to improve performance. Look for an upcoming series from Stephanie Innes in the Arizona Republic for more on APS.

Abuse & Neglect Investigations in Nursing Homes

We’re disappointed that the governor’s budget proposal fails to address the fact that the ADHS licensing program needs additional funding to be able to adequately follow up on complaints filed by families about nursing home neglect. 

A recent Auditor General’s Report showed that many important complaints are not currently being followed up on.  The agency acknowledged in their response that they don’t have adequate resources to follow up on complaints.

Editorial Note: I’m partly responsible for the lack of resources in the program.  Back during the Recession, the licensing general fund was swept and we were given the ability to charge fees to nursing homes to support our inspections. When we did the math to calculate those fees, we neglected to include Indirect costs which shortchanged the program by 25%.  My bad.

The Senate’s proposed budget includes additional funds (I don’t know if that’s general fund or a fee increase) to help do a better job following up on nursing home complaints.

State Loan Repayment Program

Last year the state’s health care provider loan repayment program which places practitioners in rural and underserved areas that have a dearth of health care providers received a $750K increase. We had hoped that this would be continued for future years, but alas the governor’s budget proposes not funding that increase again.

Oral Health Coverage for Pregnant Medicaid Members

We had hoped to see a proposal to make the small appropriation that would be needed to begin providing oral health coverage for pregnant Medicaid members.  Here’s a blog post from back in March that lays out the case for this important intervention.

State Employee Salaries

We had hoped that there would be a proposal to increase the salaries of public health workers in state government.  Nope.  Again, no increase for hard working state employees (except at DCS etc).

Salaries aren’t the only thing that slows turnover- employees also need to know that their efforts are valued and that they have the ability to make decisions and participate in the development of agency priorities- but salary is part of the equation and state employees have not seen raises in many years.

Final FY 2020 Federal Budget

Federal elected officials finalized the federal budget just before Christmas.  The federal budget included a $4.4B increase for the U.S. Department of HHS including decent increases for CDC and HRSA, including $50M in new CDC funding to improve public health data systems at CDC and state, local, tribal public health departments and an increase of $75 million for CDC’s global disease detection programs.

AzPHA is pleased that the final bill provides both CDC and the NIH each with $12.5M to study gun violence prevention.

Quick ACA Lawsuit Update

The Supreme Court will decide soon whether to grant an expedited appeal in the Texas v. Azar case. Defenders of the Affordable Care Act have asked the court to grant an exception and hear the case in 2020 (before the election). SCOTUS has asked the plaintiffs (who are trying to overturn the ACA) to respond to the request for an appeal last week.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in late 2019 that the ACA’s Individual Mandate is unconstitutional but pushed the case back to the lower court to determine which elements of the law are tied to the individual mandate. If an expedited appeal is granted, the Supreme Court would hear the case before the term ends in June of this year. More info here and don’t forget about the ACA Social Media Toolkit.

Child Fatality Review Report Sets Off Suicide Alarm Bells

The death of any child is a tragedy – for the family and for the community. Everybody wants to prevent childhood deaths. Making policy interventions to prevent childhood deaths requires information in order to develop effective policy interventions.  That’s where the Arizona Child Fatality Review State Team comes in.

More than 25 years ago the state legislature passed a law establishing the Arizona Child Fatality Review Program (A.R.S. § 36-342, 36-3501-4).  It’s a great example of establishing public policy designed to build data and evidence so policy makers can use evidence to build future interventions.

The State Team includes representatives from the Academy of Pediatrics and from the ADES Divisions of Developmental Disabilities and Children and Family Services, as well as from law enforcement and the ADHS. The team’s role is to review all childhood deaths in AZ and produce an annual report to the Governor and legislature with a summary of findings and recommendations based on promising and proven strategies regarding the prevention of child deaths.

The 2019 report was published last week- and as usual it provides a host of data and recommendations that are directly tied to evidence.

In past years this focus has raised the awareness about child drowning and the importance of putting babies to sleep on their backs or making sure all children are always secured in car seats.  Those interventions have made a real difference- and Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID) decreased 29% from 2017 (n=84) to 2018 (n=60) and accounted for 7% of all child deaths in Arizona.

The 2019 report sets off the public health alarm bells when it comes to child suicide.

There was a 28% increase in suicide deaths from the previous year (which itself had a 32% increase over the year previous)… so child suicide deaths have gone up about 50% in the last 2 years.  64 kids died by suicide in 2018.  About 40% of the suicides were from a firearm.  Over the last six years, the child suicide mortality rate has gone up more than 100% going from 1.5/100,000 in 2012 to 3.9/100,000 in 2018.

Here are the Suicide Prevention Recommendations from the Report

  • Support funding and training to schools, communities, clinical and behavioral health services providers on the prevention of suicide.  

  • Educate parents, teachers, and caregivers on the risk factors for suicide. These factors include substance use, delinquency, depression and poor impulse control.

  • Provide information for educators, parents and caregivers on how to seek help for children at risk after the first red flag.

  • Continue to expand and enforce anti-bullying policies in schools.

  • Expand resources for teens that are likely to be mourning the suicide death of a friend or family member.

  • Strengthen services available to children and adolescents that address adverse childhood experiences and practice trauma informed care.

  • Completely remove firearms from homes where individuals are experiencing mental health problems such as, depression, substance use, or suicidal ideation.

  • Urge parents to monitor their child’s social media for any talk about suicide and take immediate action if there is evidence of suicidal ideation. 

  • Encourage social media organizations to develop opportunities to flag information that might indicate suicidal thinking and respond with crisis information resources. 

  • Support funding and access for quality behavioral health and substance use assessment and treatment services for youth and their families, especially in rural communities.

  • Promote and expand universal screening for suicide risk by all health care providers at each visit.

  • Store all medications in a locked cabinet and discard unused medications safely and properly when they are no longer being taken.

Here are some of the results in the other categories of child fatalities:

  • Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID) decreased 29% from 2017 (n=84) to 2018 (n=60) and accounted for 7% of all child deaths in Arizona.

  • Deaths from prematurity increased 24% from 2017 (n=180) to 2018 (n=224).

  • Accidental injury deaths decreased 9% from 2017 (n=187) to 2018 (n=170) and comprised 20% of all child deaths.

  • The number of firearm deaths was unchanged from 2017 (n=43) to 2018 (n=43) and accounted for 5% of all child deaths.

  • Child fatalities due to abuse/neglect decreased 5% from 2017 (n=79) to 2018 (n=75) and accounted for 9% of all child deaths in Arizona.

  • Motor vehicle crash (MVC) deaths increased 13% from 2017 (n= 65) to 2018 (n= 74) and accounted for 9% of all child deaths in 2018.

  • Homicides decreased 18% from 2017 (n=38) to 2018 (n=31) and accounted for 4% of all child deaths.

  • Drowning deaths decreased 20% from 2017 (n=35) to 2018 (n=28) and accounted for 3% of all child deaths.

The full report covers each of these areas including some recommendations for policy and program interventions in each area.  Sometimes the recommendations are more related to increasing awareness but many are more policy based.

Lots of work went into this report- so if you’re somebody in a position to influence either lawmakers or agency officials to implement preventative policies in these areas- please get familiar with this   important research product – it will really help inform your advocacy efforts.

Suicide Prevention Training for Schools

In 2019, the Arizona State legislature passed Senate Bill 1468 mandating all public school staff who interact with students in grades 6 through 12 be trained in an evidence-based, best practice suicide prevention training at least once every three years.  The statute tasks AHCCCS with picking evidence-based, best practice suicide prevention training materials.  AzPHA Board member and Treasurer Kelli Donley Williams is the point person at AHCCCS that’s been working on this.

The law takes effect in the 2020-2021 school year and school districts are being encouraged to write policies describing how they will implement and track the training.

AHCCCS and the Arizona Department of Education have already selected the school suicide prevention training options. School administrators can choose from among these materials as they work toward meeting the statute’s requirements.  Here’s a list of the evidence-based programs:

  • Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR).

  • Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST).

  • At-Risk for High School Educators (available online).

  • Youth Mental Health First Aid.

  • Suicide Alertness for Everyone (safeTALK).

  • ACT on FACTS (available online).

  • More than Sad – Suicide Prevention Education for Teachers and other School Personnel.

  • Be a Link! Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training.

The qualifying programs were selected using the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Suicide Prevention Toolkit for High Schools, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center for additional gateway trainings, and peer-reviewed articles addressing cultural considerations, particularly for tribal nations, in suicide prevention.

Behavioral Health Services in Schools

One of the evidence-based strategies to prevent suicide among children is to provide easily accessible behavioral health services for students in the school setting.

Schools in Arizona have historically been approved settings for Medicaid-covered behavioral health services… but Arizona has recently been moving forward to make it more robust.  

Last legislative session, an additional $3M was appropriated to expand behavioral health services in schools with $1M going to a partnership with the Arizona Department of Education to provide mental health training to schools and school districts.  

The remaining funds are being matched with Federal Funds to generate $10M in Medicaid funding to AHCCCS health plans to bring behavioral health providers into the school setting and pay for Medicaid-covered behavioral health services in schools.  Examples of some of these projects include:

  • Project AWARE: In collaboration with the Arizona Department of Education, AHCCCS is working with three school districts to implement Mental Health First Aid training.

  • The Safe Arizona Schools Plan which pays for in mental and behavioral health resources at schools. With $1M in funding, the Arizona Department of Education and AHCCCS signed an agreement to partner efforts in expanding access to behavioral health training in schools statewide. 

  • Arizona Medicaid School-Based Claiming Program: Arizona participates in two Medicaid reimbursement programs for school-based services, the Direct Service Claiming program and the Medicaid Administrative Claiming program both of which help certain school districts by reimbursing them for their costs to provide Medicaid covered services to eligible students.

At this week’s  State Medicaid Advisory Committee (SMAC) meeting, Director Snyder confirmed that AHCCCS is planning to file a state plan amendment later this year which would allow schools to bill for eligible services provided to AHCCCS participants. More info on this opportunity here and here.  

Are More Suicide Prevention Interventions on the Way this Legislative Session?

There’s talk at the Legislature of creating a Suicide Fatality Review Board (much like the child fatality review board).  The idea is to review all suicides in Arizona and find trends and brainstorm prevention programming (interventions in AZ are difficult because the trends often depend on geography).  

Yavapai County has the highest rate of suicide, but this is among those 65 and older. Native American youth are most at risk for suicide, but prevention resources are often harder to access in Arizona’s rural and frontier counties where most Native Americans live.

I’ve also heard rumors that there will be a bill that will enhance the existing behavioral health services in schools- but I haven’t heard any details about what the initiative is or what it would do yet.  Stay tuned.

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