JANUARY 8, 2014

Governor Jan Brewer announces final resolution in Arnold v. Sarn

Landmark agreement strengthens community-based behavioral health system, ends 30-year court case 
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PHOENIX – Governor Jan Brewer today announced a final agreement has been reached in the Arnold v. Sarn case regarding care and services for individuals with serious mental illness (SMI). Litigation that commenced in 1981, the settlement ends a more than three-decade long lawsuit against the state and establishes a blueprint for a successful community-based behavioral health system in Arizona.

“This is a landmark day for our state, particularly for the thousands of Arizonans living with serious mental illness who finally have better access to the quality community-based resources and the care and services they deserve,” said Governor Brewer. “In addition to putting an end to 30-plus years of litigation, we have crafted a model behavioral health system based on best practices and well-established, proven guidelines.  Furthermore, this resolution also keeps the state accountable and ensures Arizona will not fall short on its obligations to this population in the future.”

The final settlement, which will become a final enforceable judgment subject to court approval, provides a variety of community-based services and programs agreed upon by the state and plaintiffs, including crisis services; supported employment and housing services; assertive community treatment; family and peer support; life skills training; and respite care services. The Arizona Department of Health Services is required to adopt certain national quality standards outlined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, as well as annual quality service reviews conducted by an independent contractor and an independent service capacity assessment to ensure the delivery of quality care to the state’s SMI population.

The agreement is an enforceable contract that is structured so the Court can enforce the requirements should the state not fulfill the terms. It is not anticipated that additional funding is required to comply with the agreement.

"Throughout the now 33-year, sometimes tumultuous history of the Arnold vs. Sarn case, Governor Brewer has remained consistent in recognizing its value to the Arizona mental health community,” said Chick Arnold, the original plaintiff in the case. “Now, as we focus our attention on a historical agreement, reached after extensive negotiations between the attorneys for the Plaintiffs, and the Governor's team, a team driven by the Governor's desire that the court's orders be respected as designed to serve the needs of Arizona's seriously mentally ill, we see an opportunity to realize the vision of our statute, passed over 35 years ago. This statute set forth a public policy that all Arizona citizens suffering from a serious mental illness are entitled to a full range of accessible and responsive community-based services.”

Arnold added, “We in Arizona can now look forward to a renewed focus on those community services most critically needed to assist in recovery – supported housing, supported employment and an enhanced crisis service system. “Together with the embracing of the critical concept of integrated care, and the expansion of those who will be eligible for these important services through Medicaid restoration in Arizona, citizens of Arizona now have much reason for optimism."

“After years of contentious litigation, I’m gratified that the state and plaintiffs were able to amicably work together over the past two years and reach a reasonable and effective agreement once and for all,” added Governor Brewer. “I especially commend Chick Arnold and all those involved who worked diligently, collaboratively and in good faith to make this agreement possible. I am so proud that SMI individuals will get the care and services they need to recover and succeed in our community.”

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