MENTAL HEALTH MASQUERADE

ARIZONA SET OUT TO CREATE THE BEST MENTAL-HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM MONEY COULD BUY. IT ENDED UP WITH A PROGRAM AS DYSFUNCTIONAL AS THE PEOPLE IT SERVES.

Arizona's rules for considering grievances of the seriously mentally ill are among the nation's best. But diligent advocates inside the system have come under attack from ComCare and, at times, from the state itself.

Low pay, heavy case loads and endless paperwork have withered morale among many ComCare workers. The turnover has made continuity of care fleeting for many clients.

"How you deal with your mentally ill clients isn't nearly as important with ComCare as how you deal with your paperwork," says Bob Campbell, a case manager fired a few weeks ago after repeated run-ins with his supervisors.

"ComCare is about power. It's about image and a bank account. The rest is secondary."

Emerging From the Dark Ages
Arizona long has had one of the nation's highest per capita populations of seriously mentally ill. But until the 1990s, the state annually ranked at or near the bottom in spending on services for that population.

The dismal picture was compounded by the fact that, until a few years ago, Arizona didn't accept federal dollars to help its mentally ill.

But by the beginning of 1994, the state had surged to 17th in per capita spending.

The journey from dereliction began in 1981.
That year, the Arizona State Legislature said the seriously mentally ill have the right to receive treatment. The lawmakers didn't back up their proclamation with much funding.

Also in 1981, then-Maricopa County fiduciary Charles "Chick" Arnold filed a class-action lawsuit against the state on behalf of the seriously mentally ill. The case dragged through the courts until 1989. Then the Arizona Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling that ordered full funding.

"The Legislature must fund whatever programs it has required," the high court decreed. "The present system operating at the state and county levels falls far short of an adequate system. . . . Arizona has imprisoned its mentally ill in the shadows of public apathy."

It was the first time in U.S. history that a court--taking its lead from the legislative branch--had ordered such all-encompassing relief.

Negotiations between the state and the plaintiffs resulted in the "Blueprint," a document that spells out what the state must do to end the lawsuit.

The Blueprint was written directly to the seriously mentally ill, telling them, "It is important to know and understand your rights."

Linda Glenn, a nonlawyer with years of experience in the mental-health field, was hired as court monitor in May 1991. She's actually paid as a "consultant," and collected $121,000 from the state and county last year for her efforts.

Glenn's job is to oversee execution of the Blueprint.
Arizona's legislators were forced by the high court and their own 1981 proclamation to dole out far larger sums for mental-health services than ever before.

But money hasn't solved the problems. Prior to 1992, the seriously mentally ill in Maricopa County received services through three ComCarelike companies. Each had different rules, which led to confusion and difficulty for all concerned.

That year, DHS selected ComCare to run the show in Maricopa County alone. By the end of 1993, ComCare was on the brink of insolvency. ComCare's equivalent in Pima County was in equally bad shape.

An effort was afoot in the Legislature to shift responsibility for the seriously mentally ill into AHCCCS, Arizona's version of Medicaid. DHS director Jack Dillenberg backed the proposal.

Something had to give, and quickly.
Into the maelstrom stepped Pamela Hyde.

Pam Hyde to the Rescue
Pam Hyde came to Arizona from Seattle with rave reviews and a sterling rsum. She'd directed that city's Department of Housing and Human Services. Before that, she'd headed the Ohio health department.

A 1992 story in a Seattle newspaper described how Hyde, an attorney, was volunteering at a homeless shelter. Hyde told the paper her monthly stints reminded her "why I'm in the business of human services and how difficult life is for people in need."

In ComCare, Hyde found a firm with a runaway debt that had fallen from grace among many legislators. Hyde needed all the friends she could muster, and found a potent ally in Court Monitor Linda Glenn.

Given all the problems ComCare was facing, Glenn could have made Hyde's life miserable. To the contrary, Glenn made Hyde feel right at home.

Literally.
Voter registration and driver's license records indicate that Hyde listed Glenn's home address as her own on December 30, 1993. Hyde purchased her own home in March 1994, according to county records.

That Glenn was comfortable enough to offer Hyde temporary shelter raises questions about Glenn's ability to act as a watchdog over the county's mental-health system--and ComCare.

Hyde declines to say whether she resided with Glenn.
"I have absolutely nothing to hide about what I did or did not do in that regard," Hyde says. "But I don't believe that my personal life, or where I live, has anything to do with this. My gut reaction is to tell you exactly what I did because there's nothing to hide. My philosophical and personal reaction is, it's none of your business."

Glenn did not return recent calls seeking comment, but told New Times weeks ago that she hadn't known Hyde before Hyde moved to Phoenix.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Phoenix Concert Tickets
Loading...