Introducing Representative Walter Blackman (R – Scottsdale) House Bill 2111 Monday at the first meeting of the House Health and Human Services Committee. The bill would allocate $10 million from the state’s general fund in fiscal year 2022-23 to the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) for the Healthy Families Arizona (HFAz) Program. This funding would double the amount currently allocated to the program.
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HFAz is a free, voluntary program serving pregnant women and families of newborns that aims to improve social and economic outcomes for women and their children. The goals of the program are to enhance positive parent/child interaction, promote child health and development, prevent child abuse and neglect, and provide stability for at-risk families.
The program provides services such as emotional support and encouragement to parents, connects families to community services, health care, child care and housing, provides child development education, nutrition and security, and promotes self-sufficiency through education and employment.
Blackman said the bill was necessary to protect children from child abuse, sexual abuse and trafficking, citing that child protective services substantiate a sexual abuse allegation in Arizona every 9 minutes, and that 82% of these victims are under 18 and women. . He also said that because of the longstanding effects of child sexual abuse that often lead to mental health issues and substance use disorders as those children grow into adults, Arizona taxpayers would pay even more money in the future to help these people if they were preventative. measurements are not taken.
Gauri Gladish, representing the Women’s Foundation for the State of Arizona, testified in support of the bill, noting the state’s ranking of Arizona 42nd out of 50 for child welfare.
“At the Women’s Foundation, we know that when women and their families have the tools they need, they pave the way to self-reliance. Our research shows that investing $10 million in the Healthy Families Arizona program can save the state and taxpayers up to $110 million each year.
She added that 96.3% of families involved in HFAz have not reported child abuse or neglect for 3 consecutive years, and that more than 20% of mothers who complete the program are employed full time at the time. where they end the program.
Melissa Compian, representing DCS, also spoke in favor of the bill. She said while the program serves about 4,000 families per year, it has the capacity to expand to serve an additional 1,500 families with the additional funding.
Several lawmakers, including Rep. Joseph Chaplik (R – Scottsdale) and Steve Kaiser (R – Phoenix), have expressed concern over the doubling of the appropriations amount. “As far as fiscal responsibility goes, I find it difficult to double a budget without any proof of what that money is actually going to do, without any stats that $10 million is going to get us the results we want,” Chaplik said. .
Blackman said the exact dollar amount could be negotiated in the House Appropriations Committee, but urged appropriation of the full $10 million. The bill passed 7-2 and went to the House Appropriations Committee.
Another key bill discussed at the committee meeting was HB 2098, presented by representatives Regina Cobb (R – Kingman) and Michelle Udall (R – Mesa). The bill would add psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners to the list of healthcare professionals who can perform psychiatric assessments for minors and provide referrals for outpatient or inpatient treatment services.
The bill would also allow psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners to report to juvenile court on the mental health assessment and treatment of youths detained by DCS for the purposes of approving or denying hospital care. .
Compian also testified in favor of this bill.
“Throughout the behavioral health provider community, psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners often play the primary role in assessing a child’s mental health, and they are sufficiently trained to perform such assessments and make such recommendations.”
Katherine Busby, representing the Arizona Nurses Association, also spoke in favor of the bill and said psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners are more than qualified to perform these assessments for young people.
The bill passed unanimously and was referred to the House Rules Committee.