Lack Of Proposals Slows Addition Of Mental Health Services To Arizona State Hospital Campus

By Mariana Dale
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2018 - 9:12am

entrance of the Arizona State Hospital
Sky Schaudt/KJZZ
The entrance of the Arizona State Hospital in Phoenix.

Arizona’s health department pushed for a law change last year that it hoped would bring more services to those with mental illness to the campus of the Arizona State Hospital east of downtown Phoenix.

A lack of viable proposals has delayed the development of a so-called Center for Psychiatric Excellence.

“Frankly I’m surprised there wasn’t a bigger response than there was,” said  Arizona State Hospital CEO Aaron Bowen

The Arizona State Hospital treats about 300 patients who require court-ordered behavioral health care, including people convicted of a crime and found insane.

The 93-acre campus on 24th and Van Buren streets has several vacant buildings and unused land. The hospital is held in a trust, which is why legislators had to change Arizona law to allow private leasing there. Money made in the future must benefit people with mental illness in the state.

“We kind of came up with this vision of having a Center for Psychiatric Excellence which would really in our minds provide a continuum of behavioral health services ranging anywhere from outpatient services, supportive housing up to the highest level of care,” Bowen said. The center would not privatize existing services at the hospital.

Arizona State Hospital in Phoenix
Sky Schaudt/KJZZ
Arizona State Hospital on 24th and Van Buren streets in Phoenix.

Hundreds of people submitted comments online suggesting uses for the grounds ranging from treatment for the seriously mentally ill to infants born addicted to opioids.

READ MORE: Parents Of Seriously Mentally Ill See Opportunity In Arizona State Hospital Proposal

The initial request for proposals was cancelled after only receiving one submission.

Bowen said changes to how federal funding pays for some treatment could be a reason more behavioral health organizations didn’t apply.

“Providers are hesitant to open up a service if there’s not some way for them to be compensated,” Bowen said.  

For example, Institutions for Mental Disease, a technical term for a specific type of inpatient mental health treatment center, can’t be reimbursed by Medicaid for care provided to many adults.

Bowen said bringing more services to the state hospital campus remains a priority.

“We’re looking at options,” Bowen said. “We’re looking at what we can do next.” 

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