Mental Health America of Arizona

mha-about-logoServing Arizona since 1954, Mental Health America of Arizona (MHA AZ) is the state’s oldest organization dedicated to all aspects of mental health, mental illness and behavioral health disorders.  During MHA AZ’s 60-year history, the agency has provided leadership addressing the full range of mental health issues. In 1965, MHA AZ raised the money to allow Camelback Hospital to open the first adult outpatient clinic in Arizona, serving patients for over 30 years. Later the Scottsdale building would be donated back to MHA AZ and would serve as the state headquarters for over a decade.

Beginning in the 1980s MHA AZ offered a variety of programs to assist the public with questions and concerns about mental illness. These programs included: Information and Referral, Peer Support Groups, OPTIONS (Offering Parents & Teens Information on Needless Suicide), Compeer, OK Socialites, Night Talks and the Annual Walk for Conscience.  With the help of Tribune Newspapers, MHA initiated and sponsored, for 21 years, the annual Seeds of Crisis Symposium that brought together the media, elected officials, business leaders, providers, and family and peer representatives to address unmet mental health concerns in Arizona.  Through unified advocacy efforts led by MHA, the state celebrated many successes in improving the quality and funding for essential services.

In early 2011 the MHA AZ Board of Directors recognized the agency’s ongoing financial difficulties.  MHA’s doors were closed that year.  MHA AZ’s building; contents and programs were donated to MIKID, Mentally Ill Kids in Distress, a program founded in the late 80s under the auspices of the MHA AZ.  MIKID and Visions of Hope continue to administer three of MHA AZ’s programs.  Those programs are OPTIONS, Information and Referral and Peer Groups. MIKID and Visions of Hope utilizes the building located on Thomas Road in Scottsdale. MHA AZ’s advocacy efforts, however, have been noticeably missing by the Arizona community.

By the summer of 2012 there was interest in reviving MHA AZ.  A Steering Committee was formed, and with the assistance of MHA-CA and others in the community, steps were taken to renew the organization.  The formal dissolution of MHA AZ had never been completed and the necessary state and federal reporting requirements had been maintained.

A new Board of Directors was selected and the revival of MHA AZ was launched.  Since that meeting, bylaws have been revised and adopted to reflect the changes in structure and a new vision and mission have been created.  We envision a mentally healthy Arizona, free from stigma and treatment disparities.  MHA AZ is dedicated to promoting the mental health and well-being for all Arizonans through education, advocacy and the shaping of public policy.

The first project of MHA AZ was to sponsor the Mental Health Association of Associations.  This is a statewide gathering of groups seeking to build consensus on common advocacy issues.  A four-point guiding principles document was adopted in mid-September 2012.  MHA AZ continues to foster this effort through quarterly meetings and ongoing efforts to identify interested groups — working towards joint actions when possible.  Speakers have included the directors of AHCCCS, SAMHSA and a representative from Congress.

In addition, MHA AZ has already begun an advocacy agenda for 2012 and 2013, so far including:

  1. Submitting comments to Director Will Humble in the summer of 2012 expressing concern about the rapid adoption of the pharmaceutical formulary with less than a 48-hour comment period.
  2. Writing to Governor Brewer in mid-December 2012 urging her to restore and adopt the expansion of AHCCCS in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.
  3. Under the Mental Health Association of Association’s banner, sending a second letter to the Governor and the House and Senate legislative leadership endorsing the Governor’s AHCCCS plan and advocating for its adoption in the Spring 2013.
  4. Hosted a Seeds conference in October 2013 to inform the community of the changes to AHCCCS due to restoration and expansion on January 1st as well as the planned integration plans for Greater Arizona in 2014 with the Arizona Department of Health Services.

MHA AZ will continue its efforts to promote care, treatment and recovery for people with all types of mental illness.  We urge you to join us in educating and strengthening statewide advocacy efforts on behalf of Arizona citizens.  Join us by getting on our mailing list, attending meetings and spreading the word about MHA AZ’s revival.  Financial contributions are greatly appreciated.