Dana Hearn Leads Advocacy for Members with Serious Mental Illnesses

Dana Hearn, Office of Human RightsAs Bureau Chief of the Office of Human Rights, Dana Hearn has developed a highly functional team of advocates for AHCCCS members with serious mental illness (SMI) who need special assistance. Her department, required by Arizona Administrative Code to provide at least one advocate per every 2500 persons in the SMI system, helps members understand, protect and exercise their rights, and ultimately learn to become their own healthcare advocates. Since OHR moved from the Arizona Department of Health Services in 2015, Dana’s team has grown to 20 staff serving members across the state with information and referral, education and support, and assistance navigating the grievance and appeals process.

“I love my job and I never feel like I work when I’m at work.”

Under her guidance, OHR has reduced the average wait time for advocate assignment by 90 percent, reduced the number of individuals waiting for an assignment by 77 percent and increased the number of individuals identified as requiring Special Assistance by 33 percent in the last year.

Being at AHCCCS has been a great learning experience, both for Dana and other AHCCCS staff. OHR now participates across divisions, advising on trends in the behavioral health advocacy field and providing insight on ways to improve service delivery.

“I love my job and I never feel like I work when I’m at work,” she said. “I’m learning every day, and when I go home I know I’ve made a difference for someone each day.”

Having worked at DHS where the Infant at Work program originated, Dana was a strong advocate for implementing the program at AHCCCS. The innovative idea of allowing parents to bring infants up to 6 months old to work was a factor in her decision to accept the Bureau Chief position. Not surprisingly, her two young girls are themselves outspoken and strong self-advocates.

With all the various and complex components of Medicaid administration, Dana hopes to spend a long career at AHCCCS. “It would take my entire lifetime to understand all the facets of AHCCCS,” she said.

We thank and recognize Dana for her leadership in the Office of Human Rights and her service to Arizona’s citizens.


AHCCCS Employees Enjoy Works from PSA Art Awakenings Artists

Various pieces of art are on display through May in common areas at AHCCCS, thanks to artists in the PSA Art Awakenings program.  Since it began in 2000, the PSA Art Awakenings program has been nationally recognized as a leading psychosocial rehabilitation and art therapy program, annually helping more than 2000 youth and adults in Arizona work toward empowerment and recovery through creativity. The program operates 15 studios and five galleries in Arizona.

The idea to exhibit the art came from Kathy Bashor, an AHCCCS employee familiar with PSA Art Awakenings, and also familiar to life with mental illness, having herself learned to manage anxiety and depression. When she shared the idea with Health Care Advocacy Coordinator Susan Junck, Susan agreed that such an exhibit could start a dialogue with colleagues that would serve to reduce stigma and stereotypes about mental illness in the workplace.

…[the] exhibit could start a dialogue with colleagues that would serve to reduce stigma and stereotypes…

Supported by executive leadership, Susan and Kathy are planning to host an Artists’ Reception in May during Mental Health Awareness Month to continue to increase understanding and empathy within the AHCCCS community of employees.

PSA Art Awakenings is sponsored by PSA Behavioral Health Agency, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing & empowering the behavioral health community through creativity, innovation, recovery & diversity.


AHCCCS Employees Write To End Stigma

Doctors Nirbhay Singh, Jack Barber, and Scott Van Sant dreamed of a handbook for clinicians, to navigate the maze of behavioral health treatments for individuals with a serious mental illness. They hoped this book would create a “blueprint for enhancing and transforming recovery-oriented services in inpatient psychiatry.”

The dream was realized last month, when the Handbook of Recovery in Inpatient Psychiatry was published. The book includes a chapter authored by two AHCCCS employees, and the employees of two local provider agencies. Chapter 16, Recovery and Stigma, was authored by Kathy Bashor and Susan Junck in the AHCCCS Office of individual and Family Affairs, along with Colleen McGregor of Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care, and Cheryl Anderson of Marc Community Resources.

The book discusses the idea of recovery from mental illnesses, recovery-oriented treatments, self-advocacy and stigma. The four came together to author the chapter in collaboration of shared passions to end stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

Congratulations to our authors!