Office of Human Rights Advocates for Arizonans

February 24th, 2015 by Kelli Donley No comments »

Voice and choice are essential for individuals on the path of recovery.  Yet for some of our most vulnerable members, those unable to independently understand, protect and exercise their rights due to mental illness or cognitive impairment, self-determination is insurmountable without assistance.

The Arizona Department of Health Services, Division of Behavioral Health Services (ADHS/DBHS), has an established Office of Human Rights (OHR) to provide advocacy for such individuals.  The focus of OHR is to provide advocacy to individuals determined to have a serious mental illness (SMI) to help them understand, protect and exercise their rights, facilitate self-advocacy through education and obtain access to behavioral health services in the publicly funded behavioral health system in Arizona.

OHR primarily represents individuals with a SMI and in need of Special Assistance- that is, individuals who are unable to independently express their goals and preferences and protect their rights — in service and discharge planning and in the grievance and appeal processes. Currently in the state of Arizona there are over 1,100 clients that have been identified to be in need of Special Assistance of whom OHR provides direct advocacy to more than 400. The remaining Special Assistance population receives advocacy and assistance from others, such as their friends, family members or guardians. OHR also provides technical assistance, information and guidance to friends, family members and guardians when requested to support their advocacy efforts.

OHR works with members to understand their treatment needs and preferences, and to works collaboratively work with other entities to ensure that members’ needs are met, that their rights are protected and that desired services can be accessed without barriers.

To accomplish this, OHR interfaces with several other entities including, but not limited to adult probation, the public defenders’ office, the public fiduciary’s’ offices, other advocacy agencies, and peer run organizations. Last month, OHR had nearly 600 encounters with clients, stakeholders, and providers in the field to accomplish our work! The value in this collaborative approach is essential to achieve the best outcomes for this vulnerable population.

In addition to the provision of individual advocacy, OHR also identifies and addresses systemic issues. Systemic issues can be identified through themes from multiple cases, or through our representation on a single case when, for example, a policy or practice is problematic and has the potential to impact others besides our client. Further, OHR serves as the front line reporters for DBHS to identify potential problems in the system to allow for early intervention and correction.

The past few months have been both exciting and challenging for the behavioral health system. The transition of Regional Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA) and delivery models in Maricopa County not only brings the promise of integrated care and improved outcomes, it carries the growing pains associated with operational and programmatic changes. In these times, advocacy becomes even more essential for those individuals who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

OHR looks forward to the new challenge on the horizon beginning October 2015 as we transition the model and RBHAs for Greater Arizona. Clearly, advocacy is an integral part of an ever evolving behavioral health system.  It is an honor for OHR to be a part of the members’ voices and choices to improve the care for the individual member, as well as the system as a whole.


Dana Hearn is the Office Chief at the Office of Human Rights and has been in the mental health field for over 12 years, serving a wide variety of populations. Dana is a graduate of Arizona State University.  During Dana’s time in the mental health field she has worked as a behavioral consultant for both inpatient and outpatient settings, as well as within the regional behavioral health clinics and residential facilities in both the DDD and behavioral health systems.  Most of Dana’s work as a behavioral consultant was geared toward individuals dually diagnosed with SMI and DD.  Through behavioral consultation Dana wrote many functional behavioral assessments and behavior plans assisting clients to greater independence and furtherance of their skills.  From July 2011 to March 2014 she served as the Lead Advocate for the Office of Human Rights prior to becoming Office Chief.

Veterinarians Shown to Have Higher Suicide Risk

February 23rd, 2015 by Kelli Donley No comments »

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) recently published a summary of a national survey concerning veterinarians and suicide. Statistics show veterinarians have higher rates of serious psychological distress, depressive episodes and suicidal ideation than the general population.

Of the 10,254 veterinarians nationally who participated in the survey, some 298 were from Arizona.

A summary of the findings can be found here. 

Further analysis to better understand why this profession has higher rates of such psychological issues is needed.


Online Suicide Prevention Training Available

February 4th, 2015 by Kelli Donley No comments »

ADHS/DBHS now has three online trainings through Kognito: At-Risk for Middle School Educators, At-Risk for High School Educators, and At-Risk for Emergency Department Staff.  All three trainings are listed in the Suicide Prevention Resource Center/American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Best Practices Registry.

In the At-Risk trainings, participants learn to recognize warning signs that an individual may be experiencing psychological stress (e.g., depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse) and engage in virtual conversations with individuals utilizing open-ended questions, brief screening, and motivational interviewing techniques in order to facilitate an open dialogue with the individual and assist them in getting connected to support and/or treatment as needed.

For more information, visit:

At-Risk for Middle/High School Educators

At-Risk for Emergency Department Staff

Medicine Disposal Boxes Installed in Navajo County

January 29th, 2015 by Kelli Donley No comments »

Officials in Navajo County recently added five new locations for disposal of expired or unwanted medication. These secure medicine drop boxes are located in: Whiteriver, Heber/Overgaard, Holbrook, Winslow and Pinon Health Center.

Three existing medicine drop boxes in northern Arizona are located at the Show Low, Pinetop Lakeside and Snowflake Taylor police departments. The additional boxes are a result of a public private partnership with Community Bridges and the Navajo Sheriff’s Office.

Officials said they hope the boxes will help reduce abuse and overdose rates. Arizona has the sixth highest rate nationally for prescription drug abuse.

Community Bridges received funding through Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Authority to implement a response to prescription drug abuse in Navajo County. Funds provided came from the Partnership for Successful Prevention via the Arizona Department of Health Services/Division of Behavioral Health.

Five strategies are also being used in the effort to combat inappropriate prescription drug use:

  • Reduce illicit acquisition and diversion of Rx drugs
  • Promote responsible prescribing and dispensing policies and practices
  • Enhance Rx drug practice and policies in law enforcement
  • Increase public awareness and patient education about Rx drug misuse
  • Enhance assessment and referral to treatment

For more information, visit:

Jeremyah Walk for Suicide Prevention

January 26th, 2015 by Kelli Donley No comments »

ADHS staff will join community members Saturday, February 7, at Kiwanis Park in Tempe to walk a 5k in memory of Jeremyah Orsini. Jeremyah died by suicide; his family organizes the annual walk in his memory to bring advocacy and awareness to suicide prevention.

The public is invited to participate. The 5k begins at 9:40 am.

For more information about the free walk, visit:

Suicide Prevention Panel Outreaches Native Americans

January 26th, 2015 by Kelli Donley No comments »

A team from DBHS participated in last week’s 20th Annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day at the state capitol. The afternoon programming included a panel discussion concerning suicide prevention.

American Indians have the highest risk of any ethnicity in the United States; some 14.3 per 100,000 American Indians died by suicide in 2007.

More than 100 listened to panel discussion, featuring six experts in suicide prevention.Panelists included:

  • Novalene Goklish and Rosemarie Suttle – White River Apache suicide surveillance directors
  • Jacque Gencarelle – NARBHA prevention director
  • Shawn Nau – COO, NARBHA
  • Jon T. Perez, Ph.D. CAPT, USPHS Regional Administrator, HHS Region IX
  • Debbie Manuel — Morning Star Leadership Foundation as Executive Director

For more information about the discussion or questions regarding suicide prevention services available to American Indians on and off of Arizona reservations, email:

Many Teens Have Access to a Firearm

January 13th, 2015 by Kelli Donley No comments »

New research from the University of Washington finds some 41 percent of American teens report being in a home with easy access to a firearm. The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, reports suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens in the US. Ready access to a firearm is a risk factor for suicides of all ages.

Data from 2001-2004 was used, including information from teens age 13-18. Older, male and non-Hispanic teens had more access to firearms; additionally, those living in wealthy or rural areas were also more likely to have access.

In Arizona, the latest data shows some 1100 Arizonans committed suicide in 2012. From 2009-2013, Arizona had more than 5,500 suicides, 2,000 homicides and another almost 900 undetermined deaths.

The lead researcher noted the age of the data is a limitation to the findings.

For information about safely storing firearms in the home, visit:

Prescott Group Gives Hope to Isolated Elders

January 13th, 2015 by Kelli Donley No comments »

The Senior Suicide Prevention Coalition of Prescott hosts a monthly circle to encourage peers – elders in the community who may be feeling isolated, hopeless or depressed. The Path to Hope Circle gathers from 1-2:30 pm, the second Tuesday monthly, at St. Luke’s Church in Prescott.

The independent peer support group is facilitated, and is free to anyone interested.

For more information, call Terri Roza: 928-445-5211 ext. 2672

Greater Arizona Integrated Regional Behavioral Health Authority Awards Announced

December 18th, 2014 by Cory Nelson No comments »

Today the Arizona Department of Health Services awarded contracts for the Northern and Southern regions of the state to Health Choice Integrated Care (HCIC) and Cenpatico Integrated Care. HCIC will serve as the RBHA for the Northern Region and Cenpatico will serve the Southern Region. These two organizations have strong ties to the areas they will serve and have developed an excellent roadmap to continued improvements in health care outcomes for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable citizens. We were pleased to have some very good proposals submitted by all participating organizations demonstrating a strong commitment to the provision of care here in Arizona.

HCIC is a new corporation that was formed through a partnership between Northern Area Regional Behavioral Health Authority (NARBHA) and Health Choice Arizona. Both NARBHA and Health Choice currently provide services to members in the service area and have worked collaboratively over the last several years to coordinate care for members. Cenpatico Integrated Care is a new corporation that was formed through a partnership between Cenpatico of Arizona and the University of Arizona Health Network (UAHN). Both Cenpatico and UAHN have provided services to members in the Southern region and the partnership leverages the strong resources of both entities to create a comprehensive network for care.

The contracts for the Northern and Southern regions will begin on October 1, 2015 and are three-year contracts with the option for two additional two-year extensions.

Questions related to the procurement may be directed to Elena Beeman @ 602-542-2944.

Click here to view the award.


Mental illness and the flu

December 12th, 2014 by Claudia Sloan No comments »

People with mental illness have extra reason to be mindful of the flu season, particularly if they smoke, or have other medical vulnerabilities.

In general, older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

Complications from the flu can make existing illnesses more severe, lead to hospitalization and even death. Prevention is key!

Learn more about mental health and the flu through our current quarterly health initiative at