Arizona Senate HHS Committee votes on more health bills

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted on another round of bills on Wednesday in its second convening of the new session.

Senate Bill 1011, sponsored by Sen. J.D. Mesnard, would create a Maternal Mental Health Advisory Committee to recommend ways to improve screening and treatment for maternal mental health disorders. The Director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or an individual chosen by them, will lead this committee and appoint its members, who are a group of topic experts identified in the bill.



“Several years ago, the Department of Health Services (DHS) took a very close look at these [maternal mental health] issues, and what we saw was that maternal mental health issues are really prevalent and the top cause of maternal morbidity in Arizona,” said Jessie Armendt, March of Dimes lobbyist. “One in five women in Arizona will experience an instance of a maternal mental health problem, be it anything from mild postpartum depression to obsessive compulsive disorder to — in really severe cases — psychosis.”

The committee passed SB 1011 unanimously.

Senate Bill 1059 would exclude conditions related to substance abuse, intellectual disability and personality disorders from the definition of “mental disorder.” Sponsored by Sen. Chairwoman Nancy Barto, this bill would prohibit a person with substance use disorder and who does not have any co-occurring mental disorder from being considered for involuntary treatment.

It instead allows individuals presenting both substance use disorder and a mental health disorder to be screened, evaluated and treated if symptoms of the mental health disorder persist.

“The law already does what this bill aims to clarify, and that is that people who have substance use disorders as well as a mental illness should not be rejected for treatment just because they test positive for the drugs,” Barto said. “That’s happening, and for many reasons, the law is not being followed, so we’re trying to clarify the situation.”

The committee passed SB 1059 unanimously. 

Senate Bill 1022  replaces the phrase “product of human conception” with the phrase “unborn child” when referring to the need to obtain transport permits for transporting the remains after an abortion. Senator Kelly Townsend is the sponsor.

“This is basically [coming] out of a desire to return dignity to a person who, if we’re dealing with the transport of the remains, referring to that human being as a child, so the amendment is just to reach areas that I didn’t know existed in other parts of the statute,” Townsend said.

Senators Tony Navarrete, Rosanna Gabaldon and Sally Ann Gonzales raised concerns about the language of the bill, saying the desire to use the phrase “unborn child” is a projection of their anti-abortion beliefs. These three senators voted against the bill. Navarrete asked Townsend whether she would consider including more neutral and medically accurate terminology, such as “fetal tissue,” in the bill instead, to which she said no.

“This is a question of using medical jargon so that we are properly describing what this process is,” Navarrete said. “The truth is, when we are talking about this topic, there are a lot of individuals who do feel shame from this, and lots of constituents who are uncomfortable with this language.”

Townsend said her intent in sponsoring the bill was not to shame anyone, but to ensure dignity when referring to fetal remains. She said she believes “unborn child” is a medically accurate term.

The committee passed SB 1022 by a five-to-three vote.

Senate Bill 1085 requires nursing-supported group homes operated by the Department of Economic Security or a private entity to be licensed by the Department of Health Services beginning July 1, 2022. The bill allows the operator of a nursing-supported group home to install electronic monitoring devices in the home and prevents these homes from being required to meet the same requirements of regular group homes. 

The bill also requires the Department of Health Services to notify the Division of Developmental Disabilities when a supported group home receives a disciplinary action. Senator Tyler Pace is the sponsor.

“This came out of the governor’s Abuse and Neglect Prevention Task Force,” he said. “This creates a licensure that would protect some of our vulnerable populations.”

The committee passed SB 1085 unanimously.

Senate Bill 1140 would modify the rules under which a dental hygienist is permitted to administer anesthesia and provide root planning. The bill would allow dental hygienists to consult with their monitoring dental physician before administering these treatments. It would also remove prohibitions on the number of dental hygienists a dental physician is allowed to have and says these hygienists are not allowed to administer nitrous oxide. Barto is the sponsor.

The committee passed SB 1140 unanimously.

Senate Bill 1141 allows DHS to refuse to accept accreditation in place of compliance inspections from health care facilities who have been subject to an enforcement action within the past year. Barto is the sponsor.

“This is an agency bill, so we are supportive of the bill,” said Rich Hazelton, Chief Legislative Liaison for the Arizona Department of Health Services. “The long and the short of it is this would now be saying that you need to be accredited by a CMS-approved accreditation organization and not be in enforcement in the previous 12 months. So the net effect is that if you are in enforcement in the previous 12 months, the director would have the ability to say, for any health care facility that we license, we want to go in there and do an annual compliance survey, and not just take the accreditation report.”

The committee passed SB 1141 unanimously.

Senate Bill 1145 allows telemedicine visits during which physicians give patients prescription medications or devices to include a clinical evaluation that is appropriate for the patient and their condition. It also removes the requirement that these visits occur in real time with audio and visual capabilities. An amendment to the bill allows a prescription made prior to a telemedicine appointment to be dispensed. Senator Thomas Shope is sponsoring the bill, and Pace is sponsoring the amendment.

“[This bill is] offering more options for our patients who are using this to be able to receive the items that they need in an easier way,” Shope said.

The committee passed SB 1145 unanimously.