We recently extended our contract with the Regional Behavioral Health Authority in Maricopa County through September 30, 2013.  We authorized the contract extension (which will be the 6th year of the contract) so that we can better serve our members and families while we hammer out the details of several new initiatives designed to improve the quality of the services that we provide in the behavioral health system.  Several large-scale initiatives are just getting underway and we have important details to iron out before we put out the next contract Request For Proposal (technically called the Maricopa County RFP).

For example, you’ve heard me talking about our commitment to improve health and wellness for folks with serious mental illnesses by better integrating psychiatric and physical healthcare.  To move forward, we’ve (ADHS and AHCCCS) applied for and received a Health Homes Planning Grant to plan for implementation of health homes for adults with serious mental illness.  There’ll undoubtedly need to be significant changes to the RFP based on the outcomes of this work, and this extra year will give us an opportunity to include results of the planning grant in that next RFP.

In addition, because of the current (and continuing) budget crisis, the parties in Arnold v. Sarn agreed to stay the court orders until June 30, 2012.  During the stay, we all agreed to negotiate revised court orders.  Over the past several months, we’ve been conducting dozens of focus groups with adults with serious mental illness to help inform and set priorities for the new court orders.  Our negotiations will take place this summer and they’ll most likely continue into 2012.  The framework for the new court orders will also help shape the language in the new RFP.  Lastly, there are some significant Medicaid reforms proposed (or already being implemented) for Arizona, as outlined in the Fiscal Year 12 budget that will potentially have an impact for the next RFP.

The bottom line is that this extension will allow us to issue a thorough, well-researched and comprehensive RFP so we can achieve our ultimate performance objectives of integrating care and incorporating new court orders while maintaining continuity of care and preventing a disruption in services. The agreement we signed outlines other initiatives impacting this decision to extend the current contract and indicates that we’ll be carefully evaluating the progress on the Health Homes Planning Grant.