Our Vision at the Arizona Department of Health Services is ”Health and Wellness for all Arizonans”. Part of that Vision for folks living with behavioral health issues or a mental illness means achieving and maintaining self-reliance and independence.  To get there, some individuals simply need outpatient services occasionally.  Some need wrap-around community or home-based services.  Others need more intensive treatment in a licensed residential setting.  Our goal is always to provide the most effective kind of evidence-based treatment for that person.

For example, our home and community-based wrap-around services have been so effective that we’ve reduced care in licensed high-level Residential facilities by 75% in the last couple of years in Maricopa County.  We did this by building up home- and community-based wrap-around services like in-home counseling, high needs case management, home care training, peer support, respite, family support, and skills training.  However, outpatient treatment and home and community based services can’t always provide the level of treatment folks need, and some people need the more intensive treatment that only a  licensed and regulated residential facility can provide. 

A series of reports in the Republic this week suggests that some residential treatment facilities in our state are substandard.  While no regulated facility is perfect, our teams of inspectors are well-trained and highly-motivated to ensure each of our licensed residential treatment facilities meets our standards. Those that don’t must implement an immediate corrective action plan. Additionally, the DHS team has been overhauling many of its regulations to make sure our standards focus on the most important components of care.

We inspect residential treatment facilities once a year, and more often than that when there are complaints. When we’re inspecting facilities, our teams make decisions based on evidence. We talk to the residents and the staff; we look at patient and personnel records (including videotape); we observe facility practices and examine physical evidence. We require two forms of evidence to substantiate an issue. This practice helps us separate legitimate complaints and concerns from those that are baseless or intentionally fabricated.

We also receive dozens of reports every day as part of our regulatory oversight of all of our licensed facilities. We carefully and promptly evaluate each report and respond accordingly. Many of the reports that we receive are routine and pose no health or safety problem. When we receive a report that could pose an immediate safety concern, we send staff to the facility immediately like we did with an assisted living facility over the weekend.

Successful residential treatment facilities are pro-active, follow their policies and procedures without fail, are meticulous in reporting and documentation, and seek ongoing education. They’re not afraid to admit a mistake. Our job is not just to ensure that facilities comply with our standards, but also to maximize their effectiveness. That’s why our licensing teams also focus on ways to improve our licensed facilities.

Unlike newspaper reporting, our actions as an agency must be based in fact and rooted in the evidence demonstrated by a comprehensive review of the facility. Folks can view factual information about the more than 7,400 facilities licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services by visiting www.azcarecheck.com.