I haven’t written much about the Arnold v. Sarn lawsuit because its so complicated and difficult to explain. Basically, it’s a lawsuit filed against ADHS in 1981 (adding the Governor as a defendant in 2000) that has held the Department accountable to certain court orders about community-based behavioral health services for adults with serious mental illness in Maricopa County.  This week there was a major event in the history of this decades-long case.  The Plaintiffs and Defendants entered into a joint stipulation agreement that suspends many aspects of the case through 2012 as a result of the budget crisis.

This week Judge O’Connor signed a court order approving a “Joint Stipulation to Stay Litigation During Fiscal Budget Crisis”.  The Stipulation essentially:

  1. Puts a “hold” on litigation and enforcement of all current Court Orders through June 30, 2012, including the Appointment Order for the Court Monitor, enforcement, monitoring and compliance activity;
  2. Suspends some of the requirements in Article 3 of the Serious Mental Illness Rules (Title 9, Chapter 21, Article 3 of the Arizona Administrative Code) to the extent that compliance with those rules is impacted by the budget crisis.  This section of the Rules addresses assessments and service planning and can be found at http://www.azsos.gov/public_services/Title_09/9-21.htm.;
  3. Requires the Defendants to use their best efforts to serve the class members with all available resources during the time period of this stay;
  4. Requires the parties to, in good faith, revisit and revise the Court Orders with consideration for funding, defining  terms and conditions regarding the potential use of a Court monitor in the future, and redefine the services, supports, and benefits that must be provided.

    We’re optimistic that revised Court Orders will focus on outcome based objectives that are measurable and more consistent with Recovery.  Our entire team will remain committed to maintaining the best possible service delivery and service quality that we can with the resources and funding that we have…. and we’ll maintain our intensive oversight and monitoring of our behavioral health contractors.   We’ll continue to hold our tribal & regional behavioral health authorities accountable for the quality of services they provide and how public funds are used.  We’re working on bringing much more transparency to the behavioral health system (along the lines of the “dashboard”), so stakeholders can easily see for themselves how providers are performing….  and we’ll continue to promote recovery and consumer choice. (See ADHS letter to stakeholders.)

    The bottom line is that coming year is a crucial time for the behavioral health system in Arizona…  and we’re committed to ensuring that we do our very best to provide the highest quality of care that we can given our resources.