STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – In the wake of the Colorado shootings, House Democrats Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma (District 24), and Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Avondale (District 13), joined with health care service providers to urge Gov. Jan Brewer to expand coverage for mental health care in Arizona.
“The tragedy in Colorado has stirred memories of a January morning in Tucson, Arizona when so many people lost their lives and suffered unimaginable injuries,” Quezada said. “There is nothing that tears at the fabric of our society more than the untimely death of innocent people. I have to believe that anyone capable of such inexplicable violence is mentally ill. That is why we must do everything possible to ensure that people with mental illness get the help they need, which includes expanding Medicaid coverage for them.”
Cuts to Medicaid over the last several years have significantly reduced access to behavioral health care for low income, seriously mentally ill Arizonans - one of the most vulnerable populations in our state. Since 2010, the Republican-controlled legislature and governor cut about $50 million from behavioral health services, significantly reducing resources for thousands of Arizonans who do not qualify for Medicaid. They have yet to fully restore funding for services for this population. If the governor agrees to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates that about 325,000 Arizonans would have access to health care coverage and the federal government would foot the bill for most of the costs.
“If Gov. Brewer opts out of expanding Medicaid coverage, the state will have to pay to provide services for thousands of Arizonans who are seriously mentally ill or this population will be left without care,” Pancrazi said. “This vulnerable population deserves help. As we have seen, ignoring the problem can have dire consequences. People put off care for mental illness and for physical ailments, and the problems worsen. Emergency rooms are overwhelmed, and the amount of uncompensated care is pushing the medical community to the brink. We cannot continue on this way.”
Quezada said finding resources for this population should be a priority for the state.
“We must do more to help this vulnerable population,” Quezada said. “We should not have to wait until something tragic happens to have a discussion about providing services and resources for the seriously mentally ill. This is about priorities. If the governor chooses to opt out of expanding services for the seriously mentally ill, then I’m afraid our community will pay the price and she will be left to make excuses.”