Recovery Innovations Aaron Foster “Arrow” Receives Rise Award

Nearly 200 people gathered at Parsons Center for Health and Wellness on Wednesday, April 29 to honor the nominees and winners of Mercy Maricopa’s first annual RISE Awards.

The victors, all strong contenders, were chosen from 35 nominees in the three RISE Award categories. These individuals and agencies have demonstrated an unwavering dedication to transforming the behavioral health community by promoting recovery and resiliency, health and wellness, and innovation.

Recovery Innovations’ Aaron Foster “Arrow” received a Rise award for Health and Wellness.

To see all the recipients and learn more, read the full article here:

RISE Awards!

rise awardsMercy Maricopa Integrated Care hosted the first annual RISE Awards at the Parsons Center for Health and Wellness in Phoenix, Arizona this morning to celebrate Resilience, Innovation, Service and Empowerment in the transformation of the behavioral healthcare system.

There was a time not too long ago that many professionals in behavioral health kept their work in the closet, or hung their heads low. Although the work they were doing was directed towards improving the lives of others, some were embarrassed to be associated with mental health. What a refreshing contrast it was today as the Board of Directors for Mercy Maricopa proudly celebrated with panache the accomplishments of peers, advocates and providers.

The event commenced with a YouTube video showing how the staff and artists at PSA Art Awakenings crafted the unique and striking awards for the event. It was fitting that Sara Marriott, who just last week accepted the National Council for Behavioral Health Inspiring Hope Award for Artistic Expression, also received a much deserved RISE award. The symbolism of the award and the design and production of them in the studios of PSA Art Awakenings was plum perfect.

rise award recipients

Matthew Cox, “Chick” Arnold and Eddy Broadway (left to right)

Matthew Cox, “Chick” Arnold and Eddy Broadway (left to right)

Attorney and mental health pioneer Charles “Chick” Arnold served as special emcee of this event and also received a Lifetime Achievement RISE award for his leadership with Arnold v. Sarn. He called to the stage RISE winners in three categories, Recovery and Resilience, Health and Wellness, and Innovation. He was joined by Mercy Maricopa Chief Executive Officer Eddy Broadway and Board Chair and Dignity Health CFO Matthew Cox. There were 35 nominees for the eight RISE awards.

Two youth leaders, Jackson McAuliff and Austin Dailey were recognized for their success in leading and supporting other teens with Recovery and Resiliency RISE awards. Long time NAMI champion and family member Gloria Abril received a standing ovation from several in the crowd as her name was called, and Chick referenced her support of the annual walk.

rise award recipient

Arrow Foster pictured with Recovery Innovations Chief of Recovery and Clinical Shanna Galdys.

Arrow Foster pictured with Recovery Innovations Chief of Recovery and Clinical Shanna Galdys.

We were very proud that Recovery Innovation’s own Aaron “Arrow” Foster received a RISE award for health and wellness. Chick read from the nomination, “When he began working in the behavioral health field in Arizona, Mr. Foster noticed that many programs were assisting people in achieving their recovery yet were not developing techniques to assist people to move beyond recovery and into a life of meaning and purpose. The need to find our place in society, not as a person in recovery, but as a citizen moving toward self-actualization, was being overlooked.” Wonderful… and very proud.

Other recipients included Alicia Gonzales from Foundation for Senior Living, long time behavioral health leader John Moore from Marc Community Resources, and Dr. Rodd Aking of Trinity Adult Medicine, who has forged integrated primary care for persons with Serious Mental Illness with clinics operated by Partners in Recovery in collaboration with their CEO Christy Dye.

RISE. It’s a great metaphor for recovery. It’s also a call for continuing our collective impact as peer leaders, professionals, and provider organizations in behavioral health.

CEO David Covington asked to Present by The Suicide Prevention Council of Washington County

The council is sponsoring the Summit of Hope on Wednesday, May 13, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m., at Pacific University in Forest Grove. The free event is open to anyone interested in suicide prevention – health care and behavioral health providers, social service agencies, faith leaders, educators, law enforcement, local government, businesses, first responders, survivors of suicide loss, concerned friends and family, and more.

David Covington, an internationally renowned behavioral health speaker and expert on the Zero Suicide Initiative, will be the keynote speaker. Mr. Covington’s presentation will be followed by small group discussions by community sector.

Read the full story here:

Moving Forward by Looking Backward in Arizona

pointing upPrior to 1981 and the Arnold vs. Sarn class-action lawsuit, Arizona had a backwards approach in regards to mental health services for individuals with Serious Mental Illness (SMI). The state ranked 52nd in per capita funding for mental health services (behind the other 49 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia), and every other state in the nation except Arizona participated in the federal Medicaid program.

My, how times change.

Today, Arizona is a behavioral health leader. The state, which now participates in Medicaid, was last to join, but benefited from this by evaluating other states’ adoption hurdles and learning from them. Unencumbered by startup pitfalls and “unlearnings,” Arizona advanced quickly, creating a very sophisticated, interdependent system with the Medicaid authority, referred to as AHCCCS (Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment System), the Arizona Department of Health Services, and the state’s capitated health plans and Regional Behavioral Health Authorities (RBHAs). With it grew a network of specialty behavioral health organizations.

In 2015, the state ranks seventh among states in per capita mental health funding, and boasts some of the most advanced and integrated systems of care in the country, with an extensive array of crisis options, over a thousand peer and family roles, and children’s programming that is trauma-informed and inclusive of toddlers. In addition, the Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care RBHA is recognized as one of the most innovative and sought after models in the country and is being replicated in northern and southern Arizona.

It wasn’t until 2014, though, that the Arnold vs. Sarn litigation was finally put to rest. The agreement to terminate the case was made with an eye to solidify the gains of the last decades, but also to continue advancing the system into the future.

To satisfy the agreement, the state must show an increase in service, capacity and fidelity in four key SAMHSA best practices:

  1. Assertive Community Treatment
  2. Supported Employment
  3. Supportive Housing
  4. Peer and Family Services

The needs of individuals with serious mental illness are multi-variable and complex, and these four interventions are key to a behavioral health system that can accomplish the trifecta of better care, a better experience, and reduced costs.

In the area of Supportive Housing, Recovery Innovations has taken the lead.

Available, safe, and stable housing is a key component in a person’s wellness and recovery journey. However, housing is often unavailable when people are in the most need, wait lists are long due to a lack of inventory, and eligibility requirements may create barriers. People leaving the hospital may be discharged to the streets, as they have nowhere else to go. For others, they may be held in hospitals longer than what may be clinically indicated due to a lack of housing when they are discharged.

While there are housing programs nationwide, many may require a person go through multiple steps in order to “earn” his/her own place to live and/or to prove that he/she is “ready.” For example, the individual must be clean and sober for a certain length of time and at least seem mentally stable before being considered. On the off-chance housing options are available, they are often in congregate living arrangements with little privacy. Their roommates and neighbors are all people experiencing similar challenges and there is usually not enough support to go around. Furthermore, “house rules” restrict when they can come and go, who can visit, and what they can and can’t do.

The SAMHSA guidelines encourage us to put ourselves in these individuals’ shoes. Imagine living on the streets and struggling with co-occurring challenges. You are in a constant fight for survival and live in fear of being assaulted or arrested. Each day is a struggle as you seek to find shelter, food, water, and a way to escape the misery and despair of your circumstances. You may feel disenfranchised. You may feel traumatized by past and current experiences. You want some sense of hope and a refuge from your pain and living circumstances. You seek support from a housing program…and it’s really, really important.

Now, imagine being homeless and offered a chance to start over in a place of your own and of your own choosing. The lease is in your name and you live there as anyone else within the community – by the terms of the lease. You are now in your own safe and private environment of your choice.

And, what if the person supporting you in the process of finding a home also has lived experience with homelessness and co-occurring challenges? They have found his/her own wellness and have learned how to navigate the system and find relevant resources. They provide an example to you of hope and self-efficacy and are proof that anyone can defy their previous circumstances.

In addition to your own place to live, substance use treatment services, education, and vocational services are available to you. You’re inspired by peers, the services, and classes you choose and you find a desire to live free from subsidies and entitlements as you graduate from the support of the program.

The SAMHSA ideal sounds too good to be true, right?

RI staffChris Bartz thought so, too, but as a former service recipient of Recovery Innovations’ housing program, that was his story. Now, as the Program Administrator of the Community Building supportive housing program, he has repeatedly witnessed similar stories of other individuals.

The Recovery Innovations’ Community Building Program utilizes a Housing First approach. Housing First programs aim to end homelessness by providing people with housing as quickly as possible and then providing additional services as needed. This gives individuals immediate access to housing despite substance use and/or mental health challenges. This approaches echoes SAMHSA’s Permanent Supportive Housing Evidence Based Practices.

Recently, a team from the the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) visited Recovery Innovations. WICHE was commissioned by the state and Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care to conduct quality service reviews utilizing the SAMHSA fidelity standards, and Recovery Innovations’ Supportive Housing program was the focus (as part of the Arnold v. Sarn settlement conditions). All results are posted to the ADHS website, including the Recovery Innovations report.

Chris shared his experience leading the program with the WICHE reviewers: “In the near decade of working as a behavioral health service provider and almost 20 years of living with co-occurring challenges, I believe I have a unique perspective of the system. Providing Housing first and Supported Housing is not only the right thing to do for people, it works, and it saves the system a tremendous amount of money.”

Lawsuits are not about cost savings or public safety. They are invariably about social justice and human rights. At the core of SAMHSA’s models is the idea of zero exclusion for these services, individualized and integrated support services, as well as mental health and substance use services within the service mix, along with the idea that recovery is possible. Arnold v. Sarn has brought this foundation to housing for individuals with serious mental illness.

Housing may be the key in starting a person on his/her path to wellness. In addition, peers have the ability to make a tremendous impact in the lives of people they work with by demonstrating and providing a role model of what recovery and wellness look like.

Arnold v. Sarn will continue to positively shape a comprehensive Arizona community mental health system of care for decades to come. Expanding housing opportunities and the peer workforce in the SAMHSA arenas of Supportive Housing, ACT, Supported Employment, and Peer and Family Services is not just a good idea, but an important part of promoting individuals in their unique recoveries.

Notes: Dimension 6 of the SAMHSA fidelity model looks at the Indicator of the “extent to which tenants are required to demonstrate housing readiness to gain access to units.” The highest score of a ‘4’ in this area may be obtained for those programs which do not have any requirements for a person to first demonstrate housing readiness in order to obtain housing; meaning that there is not a need for an initial screening or review to determine a person’s readiness.

RI News Flash

On March 29th, Sue Ann Atkerson joins Recovery Innovations as Chief Operations Officer, bringing 19 years executive management experience from leading Arizona behavioral health agencies Southwest Behavioral & Health and TERROS. She is pictured above alongside Chris Bartz and Arizona Regional Director Marleigh O’Meara. 

Velvet Elvis Update: Chris Bartz is the third individual at Recovery Innovations to join the ranks of Velvet Elvis recipient. The king transitions back to Arizona from Washington State and prior holder Liz Timko for her work in the Lakewood Recovery Pathway Evaluation and Treatment program. Congratulations, Chris!