One of our continuing priorities other than things in the budget is to get better governance in place at the Arizona State Hospital.  SB1716 Arizona State Hospital; Governing Board. The bill (by Senator Gowan) would change the governing structure for the Arizona State Hospital (ASH) from one in which the Arizona Department of Health Services both runs and ‘regulates’ ASH to a model in which ASH has independent oversight, building much better checks and balances into the system of governance. 

SB1716 sets up a new Governing Board which would oversee operations at ASH. The Superintendent would report directly to the Governing Board rather than the ADHS Director. Here’s an article by Mary Jo Pitzl at the Arizona Republic with more detail. The Arizona Department of Health Services would then be able to regulate the Arizona State Hospital free from conflicts of interest.

Why is that important? It’s simple. Right now, there’s a huge conflict of interest because the ADHS Director is responsible for both running and regulating ASH. It’s never a good governance model to have an entity regulate itself!

It’s very simple for the ADHS Director to send an implicit (or even explicit) message to her or his team to go easy on ASH to keep things quiet. Indeed, recent complaint investigations of serious allegations often find ‘no deficiencies’. That’s just hard to believe, especially when the fox is watching the henhouse. 

Editorial Note: I submitted a complaint to ADHS Licensing more than a month ago, after there were more than 7 Code Grays in a single day at the State Hospital (Code Gray’s mean that there was an assault bad enough to require a significant intervention). I received an automated response suggesting that they would follow up. To date I have heard nothing about what the status of that complaint is.

That bill continues to languish, needing a hearing in the House Rules Committee and then a floor vote in the House before going to the Governor for a signature (the bill had consensus support in the Senate). We’re continuing to make sure legislators know how important this bill is!

See: How is the Arizona State Hospital Regulated & Why is Governance Reform Needed?