J.K. v. Humble

The state of Arizona has repeatedly failed to meet its federal obligations when it comes to providing mental health and substance abuse treatment to Medicaid-eligible children. The Center was appointed as legal counsel in this case in 1991 to enforce federal laws requiring the state to provide children with nationally accepted standards for mental health care and substance abuse treatment.

The state entered into a settlement agreement with the Center in 2001 but seven years later, the state still had not complied with the terms of the agreement.  In November 2009, the Center filed a Motion for Enforcement of the Agreement in federal court.  

The five areas that the Center is asking the court to enforce are as follows: first, the state has not created the intensive community-based services that children with serious conditions require; second, the behavioral health system does not identify substance abuse treatment needs and lacks sufficient substance abuse services; third, the training program required by the settlement agreement has not been established; fourth, children are often dropped from the system on their 18 birthday despite the fact that they are eligible for services until age 21; and finally, the state has failed to develop a quality management system that monitors compliance.

Center staff attorney Anne Ronan presented the case to Judge Roll in federal court in Tucson on November 22, 2010.  At oral argument, Judge Roll explained that due to the judicial emergency in Arizona, he did not have sufficient time to dedicate to a trial on issues in the case, despite the fact that he considered the issues raised by the case as very important and deserving attention. On November 29, 2010, Judge Roll issued an Order denying the parties’ pending motions and directing the parties to again try mediation, identifying six areas of alleged non-compliance that the parties were to discuss. 

On January 8, 2011, Judge Roll was tragically killed in the Tucson shootings.  Because they had already scheduled the mediation ordered by Judge Roll for February, 2011, the parties proceeded to meet with the mediator, former Superior Court Judge Rebecca Albrecht.  At the end of the first day of mediation, however,  the Defendants stated they did not wish to engage in mediation without first obtaining a ruling from the Court on the scope of their obligations under the Settlement Agreement.  Accordingly, the parties agreed “to suspend the mediation in order for the defendants to bring (a) motion(s) before the court to resolve certain legal issues.” 

A few months after Judge Roll's death, the state filed Motion to Terminate the Court’s Jurisdiction, which the Center opposed.  At that point, the case had been reassigned to Judge  A. Wallace Tashima, Senior Judge Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  In an order issued on February 27, 2012, Judge Tashima denied the state’s Motion to Terminate, holding that, “[a]llowing the [state] to terminate the Agreement, and the Court’s jurisdiction, would permit [the state] to frustrate performance of the Agreement’s obligations with the aim of taking advantage of the Agreement’s time limits, even though the Court’s November 2010, Order made clear that the parties were to stipulate as to an extension of the Court’s jurisdiction.”  Order at 6-7. 

At this point, the parties are negotiating a Stipulation establishing a process to resolve the dispute. 

Case Updates

Federal Court Denies State's Motion and Retains Jurisdiction to Enforce Settlement Agreement re Mental Health Services for Juveniles

On February 27, 2012, Judge Tashima issued an order denying the state's Motion to Terminate Jurisdiction in the JK v. Humble case.  The Court held that allowing the state to terminate the Settlement Agreement and the Court's jurisdiction would permit the state to unfairly avoid performing its obligations regarding mental health services for juveniles by taking advantage of the time limits in the agreement.  

State Ordered to Resolve Mental Health Care Crisis

On November 29, a Tucson federal court judge ordered the state to mediate five issues raised by the Center in J.K. v. Humble that are critical to providing adequate mental health care for Arizona children.

Fighting for the Health of Arizona Kids

11/22: Center staff attorney Anne Ronan is in federal court in Tucson arguing on behalf of all Medicaid-eligible children in Arizona who need mental health care and substance abuse treatment.  The state has repeatedly failed to live up to nationally accepted standards when providing this care to Arizona's youth.