Where we've been...

 

 

  • Assisted in advocacy efforts and joined other families in Washington D.C. to support the passage of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.

  • Co-authored and advocated successfully for Arizona’s Resolution, SCR1005, Recognizing the Rights of Family Members, Caregivers and Guardians of Individuals with a Serious Mental Illness which passed the AZ Senate and House with unanimous consent (2016).

  • Advocated successfully for the passage of bills in the Arizona legislature that seek to improve communication between health care providers and family members as well as improving overall transparency.

  • Served on former Gilbert, AZ Mayor John Lewis's Behavioral Health & Substance Use Task Force. As a member of this task force, we assisted in developing and implementing Crisis Care Team training for faith groups.

  • Assisted in the development of the East Valley Behavioral Health Coalition, currently serve as Chair.

  • Have been mentioned in numerous publications for our support and advocacy of the seriously mentally ill. In addition to being written about we have spoken at numerous conferences and government functions to educate people on the problems in the system that lead to people with serious mental illness (SMI) not receiving the care they need.

  • Spoke at the ALEC National conference in December, 2017 in the HHS Task-force in support of the AZ Caregiver Bill of Rights which was subsequently adopted as model legislation.

  • A founding member of the Association for the Chronically Mentally Ill (ACMI) in Arizona that is working toward innovative housing solutions for the most fragile mentally ill in our state.

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Looking toward a better migration of care.

 
 

Ever since John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act into law on October 31, 1963, the nightmare has not ended for people and their families living with a serious mental illness. With every good intention to help individuals who have a serious mental illness (SMI) migrate out of institutions, and with the development of promising new medications, the deinstitutionalization movement ensued.

Change is a sluggish process that requires ongoing cultivation and attention.  Instead of tending to this experiment with sustained vigor, the offloading of responsibility took root between the states and the Federal government in a ghastly game of "Hot Potato" with those who have more persistent SMI like Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder with psychotic features. From that day until now, the nightmare has not ended for this vulnerable population and their families.

Life with dignity is nearly impossible for someone who has a serious mental illness without an appropriate living situation. We would never agree to letting our aging parents with Dementia or Alzheimer's disease fend for themselves on the streets or place them in dirty, overcrowded group homes in drug infested neighborhoods. We would never move our parents into converted, dilapidated hotels in high risk areas and yet, that is exactly what we have chosen to do for most people with more acute brain illnesses. Yet, even with appropriate application of Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) and the possible addition of more psychiatric beds, where do people with serious mental illness live after they are released from the hospital? Are they receiving adequate support? Are they living a life with dignity in our communities? Is this even possible? We wholeheartedly believe that it is!

 

 

 

200,000

number of people with serious mental illness in Arizona

 

13,000,000

number of people with serious mental illness in the u.S.

 
 
 

What can you do? Advocate at the local level.

 
 

State solutions:

  • Reasonable, objective measurements and transparent oversight. Accountability!

  • Increase number of housing options like the Lighthouse Model (more information coming soon!) and home-like transitional facilities for individuals with more serious forms of mental illness. 
  • Increase use of long-term state hospital and acute, court-ordered evaluation beds.
  • End the provider culture of hiding behind HIPAA laws.
  • Require physicians to make a reasonable effort to gather relevant information from the family of admitted patients.
  • Screen involuntarily committed patients prior to discharging them and arrange for services.
  • Confirm appropriate living arrangements for involuntarily committed patients prior to discharge and ensure prospective family members or caregiver(s) have access to appropriate resources.
  • Expand ACT Teams.
  • Expand use of Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), including in rural communities.
  • Gather and report relevant data on the SMI population's use of jails, hospitals, and homeless shelters.
  • Recruit and support hiring of more psychiatrists.
  • Require appropriate training and screening of behavioral health care workers. 
  • Stop denying violence is an issue that needs addressing. Individuals with untreated serious mental illness can become violent. 
  • Bring the Behavioral Health system to the table after a violent incident involving the police. Hold the BH system equally accountable. 
 
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Don't know where to begin? Start with the Caregiver Bill of Rights.

 
 

In 2016, Arizona's legislature passed the first of its kind Bill of Rights Resolution for families, caregivers, and guardians of individuals with a serious mental illness. With unanimous consent, the Arizona Senate and House of Representatives affirmed the crucial role that caregivers play in accessing care for their loved one.

A Resolution is not a Bill. It will not be signed into Law by your Governor and become statute. However, a Resolution can be a very important tool in educating your lawmakers regarding the needs of this fragile population. It also gives voice to families in your community who can testify before prominent committees at your state's Capitol.

FAMILY MEMBERS AND CAREGIVERS: KNOW WHO YOU ARE

You had dreams. Not one of those dreams involved your loved one being sentenced to a life long battle against a debilitating brain disorder. You raised your child with great hopes for their future. You loved your father, your sister, despite insurmountable and painful challenges - despite having little to no help or support. You suffer in silence and often endure unjust circumstances. You feel invisible. But you are not invisible, you're a hero. You don't need lawmakers to tell you how special you are, because it's already true. But here's the thing, it's pretty nice when they do. 

 

 
 
 

Become a monthly partner with us in advocacy.

 
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