I hope you had a great Thanksgiving holiday!
This month’s edition of “5 Things We’re Watching” in Arizona health policy features information about the new community health worker certification process, the anticipated positive impacts of a recently passed bill to support the state’s nurse workforce, and an overview of ADHS’s “Talk Heals” campaign to deter substance use among Arizona youth.
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State of Reform
1. Community health workers can now pursue voluntary certification in Arizona
Community health workers in Arizona can now become professionally certified through ADHS’s new online Community Health Worker Licensing Management System portal. This comes after ADHS finalized its final rules for voluntary community health worker certification a few weeks ago.
Professional certification is an important step in reinforcing the integrality of CHWs in Arizona’s healthcare landscape, according to AzPHA’s Will Humble. “It took several years to build the statutory and administrative pathway to facilitate certification of community health workers—and we’re finally there,” he said in his blog. “Certification of Community Health Workers contributes to further professionalization and sustainability of the workforce and can help facilitate reimbursement of services they deliver.”
2. Nurse leader discusses how recently passed nurse workforce bill will make a difference
Arizona passed HB 2691 earlier this year in an effort to provide comprehensive support to its struggling nurse workforce. The Arizona Nurses Association—a key supporter of the bill in the legislature—told State of Reform that what will make this bill so impactful is that it contains programs that intervene at every step of the nurse pipeline.
Among the programs in the bill are the Arizona Nurse Education Pilot Program, which expands the capacity of pre-licensure education and preceptorships to better-support recently graduated nurses. “Our policy strategy is doubly focused on nurses and patients, so we take an all-hands-on-deck approach to make Arizona a great place for students to become nurses, for new nurses to become expert nurses, and for all Arizonans to know that when they need us, they’ll have a strong nurse there to care for them,” Ross said.
3. What They’re Watching: Ross Goldberg, Arizona Medical Association
This edition of “What They’re Watching” features remarks from Arizona Medical Association former President Ross Goldberg, MD, about some recent policy work that the organization has been involved with as well as what he’d like to see Arizona’s healthcare sector accomplish moving forward.
He cited ArMA’s work to pass Arizona’s 2021 telemedicine bill and a physician wellness bill earlier this year as recent successes. “We have to think outside of the box, because I think we’ve been kind of going around in a circle for a while. Some things have worked, so we’ve left it alone, but could we do it better? Could we be more efficient?”
4. AHCCCS launches messaging campaign to deter youth from substance use
AHCCCS recently launched its “Talk Heals” program, a public awareness campaign focused on reducing youth substance misuse in Arizona. The campaign uses youth-catered messaging to encourage youth to talk with trusted people in their lives about their mental health. It uses TV, outdoor, and online ads to encourage youth to opt for coping strategies and self-care instead of substance use.
AHCCCS told State of Reform that the campaign was created to address increasing levels of social isolation, loss of family members, and pandemic-induced mental health challenges that drive them to resort to substance use. It is funded by the SAMHSA Substance Abuse Block Grant and will last through March 14th, 2023.
5. Child mortality increased in 2021
This year’s ADHS Child Fatality Review Program Report reveals that Arizona’s child mortality rate increased by 4.7% in 2021. The majority of deaths of children aged 0-17 were due to prematurity, followed by congenital anomalies and motor vehicle crashes. The highest number of deaths were among Hispanic children, followed by white children, Black children, and American Indian children. However, despite only representing 6% and 5% of the state population, Black and American Indian children accounted for 15% and 7% of child deaths in the state, respectively.
The report also showed that Arizona’s mortality rate due to abuse/neglect increased by 36.2% from 2020, representing 15% of all child deaths in 2021. Black and American Indian children were also disproportionately impacted by deaths due to abuse/neglect. ADHS offers recommendations for the state to prevent child deaths including increasing awareness of child maltreatment signs and encouraging families to remove firearms from homes.