Office of Human Rights Eliminates Advocacy Waitlist, Streamlines Advocacy for Members with Serious Mental Illness

OHR advocacy waitlist eliminated

The AHCCCS Office of Human Rights (OHR) provides special assistance advocacy to more than 2200 AHCCCS members with Serious Mental Illness (SMI). Across Arizona, OHR advocates help people with SMI understand and protect their rights, and teach them to become self-advocates.  On daily basis, advocates meet one-on-one with clients to help them understand treatment options from behavioral health care providers, participate in grievance and appeals processes, and create individual service plans and discharge plans.  Outreach and education is a critical component of their work. Advocates also teach clients’ families and extended support teams how to navigate the behavioral health system in order to best support someone who has been determined SMI.

Beginning in 2009, OHR saw demand for special assistance increase. Clients had to wait—sometimes months—for an advocate to be assigned specifically to them. In 2016, when the Department of Behavioral Health Services (BHS) merged with AHCCCS, OHR saw an opportunity to solve the waitlist issue.

By teaching clients how to advocate for themselves, and teaching families and natural supports how to take on the advocacy role where possible, more clients are now “graduating” from the need for a special assistance advocate.

“Our move to AHCCCS presented an opportunity to analyze workflow, identify gaps, and restructure the scope of work,” said Dana Hearn, Assistant Director of the Division of Healthcare Advocacy and Advancement.  Using the framework of the Arizona Management System, which is based on the principles of lean management, new processes were put in place. AHCCCS allocated five additional advocate positions, and the team turned its focus to education. By teaching clients how to advocate for themselves, and teaching families and natural supports how to take on the advocacy role where possible, more clients are now “graduating” from the need for a special assistance advocate. In addition, behavioral health providers have been taught to ensure timely completion of client assessments.

OHR is happy to report that, as of July 5, 2017, there is no wait list for special assistance advocate assignment throughout the state of Arizona.

For more information about the Office of Human Rights, see the AHCCCS Office of Human Rights web page. Brochures are available in English and Spanish.

 

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AHCCCS Attorney Ben Runkle receives ASU Behavioral Health Cultural Heritage Award

Ben Runkle, AZ Behavioral Health Award

Within the public health industry, attorneys often craft contracts, policies and legislation that change the health care delivery system and directly affect patient care. Benjamin Runkle, Associate General Counsel for AHCCCS, received the 2017 Arizona Behavioral Health Cultural Heritage Award from the ASU Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy for his efforts in improving American Indians’ access to behavioral health services.

Across the industry, health care professionals are seeing the improved results of integrating physical and behavioral services in order to treat patients, mind, and body, as a whole.  Arizona’s state health service agencies took a major step toward integration in 2016 when the Division of Behavioral Health Services merged with AHCCCS.  Combining the payment structures for separate behavioral health services into an existing physical healthcare delivery system posed a unique administrative challenge for Arizona’s American Indian population. As AHCCCS members, American Indians can participate in managed care networks or a fee-for-service system.

Mr. Runkle, as part of a cross-divisional team of AHCCCS personnel, worked with tribal officials to reduce the administrative burden on tribal programs that coordinate behavioral health services.  He was instrumental in negotiating and drafting streamlined intergovernmental agreements focused on facilitating American Indians’ access to behavioral health services and crisis intervention programs.  The agreements transferred administrative burdens (processing service authorizations and maintaining provider networks) to AHCCCS so that tribal behavioral health programs could dedicate more resources directly to people in need.

“Our agency is progressive and proactive about balancing the needs of members while making health care financially feasible for the next generation.”

“It took considerable effort,” said Runkle, “but in the end, we were able to construct a system that freed providers to focus their resources on delivering direct services to members.”  In short, Mr. Runkle, the AHCCCS team, and tribal officials made behavioral health services more accessible to Arizona’s American Indian populations, including members enrolled with Tribal Regional Behavioral Health Authorities, Tribal Arizona Long Term Care System, and those receiving services from Indian Health Services and tribally owned and/or operated 638 facilities.

Formerly in private practice at a local Phoenix law firm, Mr. Runkle says that his move to public health care policy work has been personally rewarding.  “I feel good about what AHCCCS is doing and I’m confident in the direction we’re heading.  Our agency is progressive and proactive about balancing the needs of current members while making health care financially sustainable for the next generation,” he said.

Beyond his work in health care policy, Mr. Runkle is an advocate of behavioral health awareness within his community. For many years he has been a supporter of Teen Lifeline, a crisis and support line for teens, parents, and teachers, and currently serves on its Board of Directors.

According to the ASU Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy website, 44 individuals and agencies in Arizona have been recognized since 2005 for their significant contributions to improvements in, access to, and impact of behavioral health care. The Cultural Heritage Award recognizes an individual or agency that has brought cultural distinction to the behavioral health field.

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Support Services Training Available for Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Families

Office of Individual and Family Affairs
The Office of Individual and Family Affairs at AHCCCS

Within the AHCCCS Division of Health Care Advocacy and Advancement, the Office of Individual and Family Affairs (OIFA) promotes recovery, resiliency, and wellness for people with mental health and substance use challenges, and the families who support them. As community liaisons, it’s OIFA’s charge to ensure communities, organizations, advocacy groups, and key stakeholders understand the resources and services available to AHCCCS beneficiaries.

Anika Robinson, Foster Care Community Liaison, manages a busy schedule traveling across Arizona teaching foster and adoptive families about such resources. A licensed foster parent herself for 11 years, Robinson speaks from lived experience. She juggles her work schedule around the needs of her eight children ages 4-20, four of whom were adopted out of the foster care system. One son has behavioral health needs and another is developmentally delayed with medical needs.

Robinson is passionate about advocating for the foster and adoptive community. She was instrumental in getting House Bill 2442, better known as Jacob’s Law, passed in 2016. Now part of AHCCCS operating policy, Jacob’s Law instituted timelines to access behavioral and urgent health services, requires a placement packet, and provides protections for caregivers.

To educate prospective and current foster parents about policies benefitting vulnerable children, Robinson will present several training classes through October. The public is encouraged to attend any of the following scheduled information sessions or contact OIFA at oifa@azahcccs.gov or 1-800-654-8713.

Aug. 11, 10 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m.
Arizona’s Children Association and Prevent Child Abuse Arizona
3298 Bob Drive, Prescott Valley AZ 86314
RSVP to Larri Stell
928-443-1991 x 2020, LStell@arizonaschildren.org

Aug. 16, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Mission Community Church Children
4450 E. Elliot Road, Room 401, Gilbert, AZ
RSVP to Anika.Robinson@azahcccs.gov

Aug. 18, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Arizona’s Children Association and Northland Pioneer College
1161 S. Main St., Snowflake, AZ
RSVP to Kristen Padilla
928-368-7330, KPadilla@arizonaschildren.org

Aug. 30, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Family Involvement Center (FIC)
5333 N. 7th St. Ste A100
Phoenix, AZ 85014
Space is limited. RSVP to 602-288-0155
Free Dinner and Childcare

Sept. 1, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Arizona’s Children Association and Northern Arizona Healthcare
McGee Auditorium
1200 N. Beaver, Flagstaff, AZ
RSVP to Larri Stell
928-443-1991 x 2020, LStell@arizonaschildren.org

Sept. 5, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Online webinar
Register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jacobs-law-presentation-tickets-36246933554
or RSVP to Anika.Robinson@azahcccs.gov

Sept. 23, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
St. Patrick’s Catholic Community Church
10815 N. 84th Street, Scottsdale, AZ
Lunch will be provided. Six credit training hours.
RSVP at http://fs3.formsite.com/AZAFAP/form141/index.html

Oct. 5, 10 a.m.-noon
Yavapai County Superior Court
Jury Assembly Room
2840 N. Commonwealth Drive, Camp Verde, AZ
RSVP to Larri Stell
LStell@arizonaschildren.org

Oct. 11, 6-9 p.m.
Human Resource Training (HRT)
RSVP to Anitra Cruz
602-433-1344, AnitraC@hrtaz.com

Oct. 28, 9 a.m.-noon
Cpes
4825 N. Sabino Canyon Rd., Tucson, AZ
RSVP to Sandra Toney
520-884-7954 x 120, SToney@cpes.com

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