Arnold v. Sarn
On January 8, 2014, the Center announced that a final resolution of Arnold v. Sarn, the historic class action, filed in 1981which required the State of Arizona and Maricopa County to develop a full continuum of community mental health services to ensure that individuals with serious mental illness can live successfully in their community. The settlement agreement entered into by the Center, Governor Brewer and the Arizona Department of Health Services will significantly enhance the quality of and expand the capacity for community-based mental health services for thousands of people with mental illness, and provide for the termination of the long standing litigation.
Anne Ronan, attorney for the Plaintiff class stated that “the parties worked diligently for months on the terms of this agreement. From the outset we were optimistic that with the inclusion of most Class Members in the AHCCCS program beginning in 2014, and the Governor’s long standing commitment to persons with serious mental illness, this was the appropriate time to seriously discuss terms for ending the litigation.”
While the litigation will end, the settlement creates ongoing enforceable obligations on the State and the County to continue to develop community mental health services to meet the needs of the expanding population and to ensure those services meet national quality standards. An independent entity will perform a quality service reviews on an ongoing basis and the assessment of the system service capacity will also be completed by an independent entity. These independent reviews will be publically available allowing for the community to monitor both the capacity and the quality of the system. The increase in capacity will not just mean more of the same but improved services recognized nationally as effective.
The services included in the settlement are proven, cost-effective measures that lead to recovery and the ability of people with serious mental illness to live successful and fulfilling lives in the community. The central components of the services include:
Assertive Community Treatment - a multi-disciplinary team of professionals that are available around the clock and provide a wide range of flexible services, including case management, medication management, psychiatric services, assistance with employment and housing, substance abuse services, crisis services and other services and supports to allow individuals to live independently in the community. ACT teams are mobile, providing services in individuals’ homes and in other community settings.
Supported Housing - integrated, scattered-site, permanent housing, coupled with on-going mental health and tenancy support services provided by ACT, case management, and/or a housing specialist.
Supported Employment – helps individuals with disabilities find and maintain competitive employment at integrated job sites in the community, reducing the risk of institutionalization, and enabling individuals to support themselves and their families.
Peer and Family Support Services services provided by individuals and families who have experienced serious mental illness are uniquely effective.
Under the proposed Settlement Agreement, over the next two years Arizona will significantly increase its capacity for supported housing to include a minimum of 1200 additional supported housing units, add Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) to serve 800 people, and significantly expand supported employment programs, creating opportunities for individuals to join the workforce, engage in productive activities, and improve the quality of their lives. The agreement also provides for an increase in peer and family support services. Further, the Agreement calls for an independent entity to assess the needs for additional services in the following years.
The Agreement will now go to Judge Edward Bassett for preliminary approval and distribution to the members of the class for the opportunity to file comments and objections. A final hearing to determine the fairness of the Settlement will be held before the Agreement will take full effect.