5 Things Arizona: Lorry Bottrill, Bills to watch, Coronavirus

Our 2020 Arizona State of Reform Health Policy Conference is coming up on May 21st – right around the corner!  We haven’t yet opened registration for this year’s conference, but you can check out the highlights from last year’s event for a sense of the energy, optimism and conversations that sprung from it.

Till then, here are 5 Things we think are worth keeping an eye on in Arizona health care in January, 2020.


                                                          With help from Michael Goldberg and Monte Whaley   

1.  Video: Lorry Bottrill, Mercy Care

Lorry Bottrill is the President and CEO of Mercy Care, one of Arizona’s longest serving and most innovative health plans serving AHCCCS members. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss housing, the social determinants of health, and working with legislators.

“A NORC study actually was done and saw a huge decline in overall costs when we really focused on housing and our Assertive Community Treatment plans. Especially on our community treatment teams that focus on those involved in the justice system by engaging them and really wrapping some services around that, that relate to all different kinds, physical and behavioral health, and really focus on the social determinants that are impacting them.”

2. A few bills we are watching

The 2020 Arizona Legislature is weighing several health-related bills in committees and public hearings. The measures include providing reimbursement of dental services for Native Americans; creating a task force to address the state’s nursing shortage and; with bipartisan support, broadening access to mental health treatment in the state.

Already passing through committee, HB 2244 requires the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to seek federal authorization to reimburse the Indian Health Services and Tribal Facilities to cover the cost of adult dental services. In the upper chamber, SB 1168 would establish a 15-member task force within the Department of Health Services to establish a long-term plan and pilot program to address Arizona’s nursing shortage.

3. ADHS tool offers new data points on trauma

ADHS launched a new trauma data dashboard which shows which social determinants lead to trauma cases where trauma cases are most often reported. For example, the highest rate of trauma per 100,000 residents was in Gila County, with falls being the most frequent mechanism of injury. Falls accounted for almost twice as many as the next highest cause, including alcohol and drug related cases.

All told, there are more than 50,000 trauma related injuries (2017) in the database. “This new tool is an example of how ADHS is working to improve the public’s access to public health data and use data visualization tools to better describe Arizona’s health and inform targeted prevention strategies,” said ADHS Director Cara M. Christ M.D.

4. Mental health taking center stage

In his State of the State message, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called for increasing access to mental health care in the state, saying insurance companies should cover the cost of routine mental health checkups just as they do for an annual physical. Bahney Dedolph, Deputy Director of the Arizona Council of Human Service Providers, shared that sentiment; saying in an interview with reporter Monte Whaley that insurance coverage of mental health treatment still lags behind coverage of traditional care for physical ailments

In his speech, Ducey went on to say at least two state lawmakers, State Sen. Kate Brophy McGee and Rep. Jeff Weninger, were working with his office to come up with a bill that provides “long overdue reform” of mental health care. For his part, he unveiled a new state-wide suicide prevention plan emphasizing a community-wide approach to suicide prevention and rigorous statistical analysis of suicide in Arizona.


5. The Coronavirus: response and context

Now that the coronavirus has arrived in Arizona (FAQs), we wondered if and when the state would activate its “Emergency Operations Center” (EOC) to respond, as has occured in at least one other state (Washington State). Chris Minnick from ADHS said his agency had activated an EOC for the purpose of “getting everyone in the same room” for planning and responsiveness.

Minnick told reporter Michael Goldberg this step was common to other public health emergencies, like past intense flu seasons. For context, in this flu season, there have been approximately 15 million flu illnesses nationwide, resulting in 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths. In Arizona, the flu is worse than the previous five year average, if you’re aged zero to 49. Not so much if you’re older.