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.