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.