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ACLPI Board President Roopali Desai named one of the 40 under 40

Roopali Desai, the president of the Board of Directors for the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, has been named to the  Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2016, which recognizes up-and-coming business leaders under the age of 40 who have made a major impact in the Valley’s business and charitable communities. This year nearly 400 nominations were submitted for consideration, a record for the publication.

Roopali was honored for her professional background as one of the state’s top election/government law attorneys, as well as her extensive community work over the past decade. In addition to her volunteer work with ACLPI, she serves on the Board for the ACLU of Arizona, where her expertise in election law helps the organization navigate rights equality and government transparency. She was also recently nominated to the Board of Directors for New Pathways for Youth, which empowers the highest-risk youth. Earlier this summer, Roopali was also recognized by Az Business Magazine as one of the 2016 Most Influential Women in Arizona.



Center Gets Quick Reversal on State's Unlawful Denial of Autism Services

Thanks to the leadership and quick action of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, Autistic children and adults with limited resources now have one less barrier to receiving help – affecting hundreds of lives and ending a conflict that could have stretched on for years.

 In early 2016, the Center learned that the Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities unlawfully added more stringent levels of eligibility for Autism therapy and services than is required by statutory and regulatory standards. The Center began receiving calls from families and well-established professionals in the field stating their clients were being denied services, or terminated from eligibility, based on the new policy.

In response, the Center gathered a panel of experts, including doctors from the University of Arizona Medical School, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and experts from the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) and the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix.  The group, with the Arizona Center for Disability Law, sent a letter to the state outlining the legal violations as well as the lack of clinical support for the policy.

 The Division agreed to eliminate all of the problematic provisions of the new standards.

 “As providers, we know when something is not right but we don’t understand the law behind it. And I think people in charge know that we don’t know, so they aren’t likely to change what they are doing, no matter how much we fight,” said Dr. Sydney Rice, an Associate Professor of Pediatrics in the University of Arizona Department of Pediatrics, who was on the panel. “But when an attorney is involved, people start paying attention… A lawyer can pull up a statute and explain it and suddenly you get respect.”

 Low-income families seeking services and therapy through the Division must still qualify for help under the AHCCCS requirements for the Arizona Long Term Care program, which are more restrictive.  Going forward, the Center will continue to monitor potential cases of individuals being denied help as well as strive to eliminate barriers for those who are already qualified to receive services from AHCCCS to meet their treatment needs for Autism.

 “If (the Center) hadn’t gotten involved with this case, I think the issue would have gone on for years, and that would have had a severe impact on these families,” Rice said.

 There is a great deal of work that needs to be done to make sure that eligible individuals get appropriate and effective assistance and the Center is committed to its strong advocacy of these vulnerable families and people.

The Center Supports Proposition 123

We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about whether the Center supports Proposition 123.  The answer is yes and here’s why. 

 We represent the school organizations and school districts in the inflation funding litigation and participated in the settlement resulting in Proposition 123.  Proposition 123 will put a lot of desperately needed money into schools immediately.  It will provide over $300 million a year to public schools over the next ten years funded in most part by larger withdrawals from Arizona State Land Trust Fund. 

The Trust Fund was established to support public education and that is what this money is going to be spent for.  It has more than enough money in it today to absorb the payments over the next ten years.  In fact, after the end of ten years, it is expected that the Trust Fund will have $6 billion - - even more money than it does today - - and will continue to grow at that point.  We don’t see any point in amassing a huge balance in the Trust Fund when public schools desperately need the money right now.

  At the end of the ten year period, the legislature will still be required to provide annual inflation funding, it just won’t be able to use the Trust Fund.  Instead, it will have to provide those payments from the general fund. 

 While the litigation has resulted in favorable rulings, contrary to what some have said, the courts have not yet ordered the state to pay any particular sum of money.  We would still need to litigate this case for another two to three years before we get to that point. That’s why we settled for most of the funding now as opposed to an uncertain outcome years down the road. 

  If you have any questions about any of this, feel free to call Tim Hogan at 602-258-8850.