Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issues executive order to increase protections for people with disabilities

Hacienda HealthCare has been making local and national headlines since over a month ago, when an “incapacitated” patient under the hospital’s care gave birth.

Since the initial news broke, a nurse at the facility was charged with sexual assault and, eventually, Hacienda HealthCare announced it would shut down the facility. A tense back-and-forth between Hacienda and the state is ongoing — azcentral has an easy-to-digest timeline of events and Hacienda’s history here.

In the meantime, Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order directing three state agencies to “strengthen protections for people with disabilities.”

“All Arizonans deserve to be safe — and we have a special responsibility to protect those with disabilities,” Gov. Ducey said in a statement. “This executive order provides increased accountability and stricter oversight, ensuring our most vulnerable are safe and protected. There’s more that needs to be done to ensure Arizona is guarding against abuse and neglect. We will continue working with all stakeholders to take additional action, and hold bad actors accountable, to guarantee the highest quality of care and protection for Arizonans with disabilities.”

The order requires the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS), and the Department of Economic Security to:

  • work with “disability advocates” to review protocols and develop training to prevent future abuse and neglect, recognize it, and report it;
  • ensure that relevant state contracts include a requirement “that all staff, contractors, and vendors” who have contact with members who have disabilities to have annual training;
  • ensure relevant state contracts have a requirement for posting signage on reporting abuse and neglect;
  • ensure relevant state contracts require a check of the Adult Protective Services Registry as part of their hiring processes; and
  • convene a working group that will submit a report to the Governor’s office later this year on other possible steps.

In the Arizona Legislature, Sens. Heather Carter and Kate Brophy McGee introduced an emergency measure (SB 1211) that would establish licensing requirements for intermediate care facilities like the Hacienda facility.

Currently, according to the bill’s fact sheet, such facilities aren’t required to be licensed through DHS. Among other requirements, the bill would require the facilities to be licensed by DHS and certified by the U.S. Department of Health Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by January 1, 2020.

That bill is scheduled for a hearing on February 13 at 8:30am.