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AZ Behavioral Health Awards Gala

Location: Sedona, AZ

Thank you, Chick.

And thanks to everyone here … because you do the heavy lifting everyday to improve the lives of Arizonans battling mental illness.

Receiving this legacy award is a true honor.

As you know, issue of mental health means a lot to me … both personally and professionally.

But before we get into that, I want to thank you for your strong, steady support of my Medicaid Restoration Plan.

Without the action we took, about 2,000 Arizonans with serious mental illness would have lost AHCCCS coverage at the end of this year.

The legislation I signed into law this spring will deliver critical services for more Arizonans needing care for substance abuse, serious mental illness and other behavioral health issues.

I know we absolutely could not have gotten this legislation done without your support.

Thank you.

During my three decades in public service, I've always been an advocate of small government.

Limited government.

But I've also seen how effective government can play an important role in the lives of Arizonans with mental illness.

Our state is implementing a behavioral health system that recognizes those afflicted with mental illness early … and treats them holistically.

We've come a long way in improving how we deal with Arizonans with mental illness, and their families.We are able to treat the "person as a whole" -- meaning we integrate mental and physical healthcare.

Both AHCCCS and the Arizona Department of Health Services have created processes to make sure people have easy access to both mental and physical health care.

This is important because our seriously mentally ill die, on average, 25 years earlier than other Arizonans. They have higher rates of ailments that often don't get addressed.

This is a preventable tragedy.

Treating the mind and body together is a more effective system that will save lives … and make those lives more worth living.

We've also made progress regarding public awareness of mental illness.

In the wake of the Tucson tragedy in 2011, we brought Mental Health First Aid to Arizona.

Since then, more than 2,500 people statewide have been trained about mental illness and early intervention.

These are not just health care workers, but also church leaders, family and friends. It's a community approach … a system wide approach … with early interveners woven into the fabric of society.

They've been trained to spot the early signs of mental illness, how to reach out to someone in need … and when and whereto call for help.

By the way, in the last legislative session, we added 250 thousand dollars to this program.

That community-wide approach has also been applied to Arizona's Suicide Deterrent System -- which began about the time I took office in 2009.

Previously, suicide was considered inevitable. Special teams would handle it.

You and I know that suicide is neither inevitable … nor acceptable.

With our approach, prevention has become part of the culture for the entire behavioral health team … and the entire community.

With our communitywide approach, we've also been able to reduce the stigma unfairly attached to mental illness in this country.

We don't want people to avoid seeking help because they're worried about what others will think of them.

That's a tough perception. We're working to change it.

So now, thanks to a coordinated approach that has included policymakers … health care providers … and mental health advocates like everyone in this room … we've been able to real steps toward creating a model for behavioral health right here in Arizona.

There is still more to do, of course.

But -- working together -- we can make sure that more and more Arizonans get the care they desperately need.

Thank you all for your dedication in representing Arizonans who too often are unable to speak for themselves.

And thank you again for this very special honor.

I accept it on behalf of everyone in this state who has worked to improve the lives of Arizonans with mental illness.

Thank you, and God Bless You.

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