A road map for beginners

There are two main On-Ramps to services in Maricopa County for adults with a serious mental illness. For general information or to make an appointment for an SMI evaluation and determination call:

  • Mercy Maricopa Member Services at 602-586-1841 or 1-800-564-5465; (TTY/TDD) 711. Representatives are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For Behavioral Health Crisis Services call:

  • Call 602-222-9444 or 1-800-631-1314.

**Scroll down to bottom of page for information regarding involuntary treatment, also known as Court Ordered Treatment (COT) or Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT). 


Office of Human Rights

OHR provides information & referral and educational resources to family members and other interested parties, but provides other assistance and direct representation only to the individual determined to be SMI and/or the guardian, if any. Find more information here or contact below:

  • Phoenix Office: 701 East Jefferson Street Phoenix, AZ 85034 *Phone: (602) 364-4585 *Fax: (602) 964-4590 *1-800-421-2124 

AHCCCS - Office of Individual and Family Affairs

AHCCCS enrolled individuals are entitled to quality services provided in a timely manner. If you are experiencing difficulty in accessing behavioral health services you have requested or have been placed on a waiting list, please contact their customer service department at 1-800-867-5808. See brochure for more information here.


Guardianship

For information and self-help packets to petition the court for Guardianship/Conservatorship for an adult in Maricopa County, please visit www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov


Involuntary Treatment 

For information about the petitioning process, or if you are experiencing a psychiatric crisis, click links below:


"Involuntary Commitment Isn't As Bad As You Think"

by Dr. Gretchen B. Alexander  *Text below originally appeared in the Arizona Republic, December 20, 2013

"You are concerned about your son. He has changed over the last several months, rarely showering or leaving his room, blowing up over nothing and losing weight.

He was laid off from his job. He seems suspicious about the meals you cook for him and has put paper up over the windows in his room. This morning, you found him in the front yard, yelling across the street at the neighbor, accusing him of stealing items from his room; you know the neighbor has never entered your house. You have asked your son to go to the doctor to get checked out, but he says nothing is wrong and adamantly refuses to go.

Situations like this are challenging to address, partially because of barriers to the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in our country.

A recent move by the White House to approve $100 million in funding to increase access to mental-health care in the U.S. is welcome news in the wake of a series of tragic shootings, some of which appear to have involved individuals with unrecognized or untreated mental illness. The majority of people who suffer from conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are not dangerous to others and may actually be more at risk of being victims of violence.

However, studies suggest that certain individuals with these illnesses can show an increased risk for aggression towards others, especially if they are not receiving treatment. This is only one of many reasons that improved quality and availability of mental-health treatment benefits all of us, not just those with mental illness.

Improving funding for mental-health services is not the only way in which access to services can and should be expanded. Also critically important is public education on the nature of illness and the availability of appropriate resources for treatment.

One of the most troubling aspects of mental illness is its tendency to rob its victims of insight — that is, the ability to recognize that they are suffering from a disease and could benefit from treatment. In such cases, the use of involuntary treatment can be essential, both to relieve the suffering of the person who is ill, as well as to decrease the risk of harm to the community.

3 big misconceptions

However, misconceptions about involuntary treatment persist and create barriers to access to care. One such perception is that involuntary treatment is only appropriate for individuals who are actively threatening to harm themselves or others.

Each state has its own laws for psychiatric commitment, so the requirements vary from state to state. Arizona is one of 27 states with a civil commitment statute that allows for involuntary evaluation and treatment in situations in which the person is suffering due to severe symptoms of mental illness, but lacks the capability to understand their condition and the potential benefits of treatment.

Involuntary evaluation can even occur on an outpatient basis, in cases in which the patient is not dangerous and willing to be evaluated as an outpatient. In addition, Arizona is one of 45 states with assisted outpatient treatment — laws that allow a person to be required to take medications when indicated and cooperate with monitoring by a mental-health clinic, even after discharge from a psychiatric hospital.

Another misconception that contributes to patients not receiving needed treatment is the belief that court orders for psychiatric treatment involves losing all civil liberties and becoming a ward of the state. Being placed on court-ordered treatment in Arizona means only that the person is legally required to attend clinic appointments and take medications as prescribed; there is also a provision that certain patients on court-ordered treatment are not allowed to buy firearms.

Becoming a ward of the state, on the other hand, involves having a guardian appointed by the public fiduciary. It is a completely separate and unrelated legal process and, in fact, is rarely applied for in the mental-health community.

Another common belief is that someone who is involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation will end up being “warehoused” in a psychiatric facility. In fact, the average length of stay for patients court-ordered for evaluation to Maricopa Medical Center, where almost all such evaluations are conducted, is about 14 days, and is much shorter for those cases in which the 72-hour evaluation period concludes with a finding that court-ordered treatment is not appropriate.

Most individuals with mental illness recognize their symptoms and want help to recover, and most treatment can occur on a voluntary basis. The goal of mental-health treatment is to provide care that improves a person’s ability to function independently and achieve the goals they set for themselves. In some cases, involuntary treatment can make a tremendous difference and can save lives.

As we go about our lives, interacting with family, friends and colleagues, it is important that we pay attention when those we encounter are struggling with mental-health issues, reach out to them and help them get treatment."