The Most Important Milestones in Arizona Healthcare History

Guess who's 109 years old? The state of Arizona!

Here at Esperança, we are celebrating by looking back to the biggest Arizona healthcare milestones in our state's history. There are plenty of unique elements that make Arizona stand out. We'll focus on the stories that often don't get their shine.

From indigenous sovereignty to the importance of mental health, the history of healthcare in our state is much more nuanced than you might realize. Keep reading to discover things you never knew about public health and community in Arizona.

1928: Formation of the Arizona Public Health Association

The Arizona Public Health Association (AZPHA) is a non-profit organization that is still around today. It's a members-based group for health and safety.

AZPHA started as a response to a Public Health and Sanitary Conference at the University of Arizona in 1928. At the conference, workers from various fields came together to discuss their role in public health. One of their aims was to fill in the gaps of state and local health departments.

These days, the AZPHA works on advocacy, professional development, and networking. It's still a collaboration between workers of different fields, and it continues to aim toward better public policy in the state.

1963: Arizona Healthcare After the Community Mental Health Act

The Community Mental Health Act, which President John F. Kennedy signed in 1963, led to a new era of comprehensive mental health centers based within local communities. Before this, large hospitals and institutions had often relocated patients and kept them away from home.

In Arizona, this also formed the basis for what would later become the "Arizona model" for crisis care. Today, mobile units in Arizona work with first responders to provide a coordinated response to mental crises. This way, people with mental conditions can receive appropriate care in emergency situations.

This might seem like common sense, but it is not the case for many states out there. In these states, those partnerships still have a long way to go. And when first responders are the only ones handling a psychiatric crisis, they run the risk of escalating the situation.

In recent years, though, other states have followed the Arizona model by linking different crisis resources.

1970: Establishment of Esperança

On February 28th, 1970, Esperança entered Arizona's healthcare ecosystem. Over the years, the organization has become an important force in the fight for preventative health education.

When it comes to healthcare, accessibility can mean a variety of things. Even if resources are available to the public, people might have different levels of access to it.

Esperança helps bridge this gap by focusing on language accessibility and cultural awareness. Our programs are both bilingual and bicultural. This allows us to reach people who might feel left out by other public health initiatives.

Esperança has worked in an international capacity since its beginning, but we began our Domestic Program in Arizona in 2000. This way, we were able to work with Latino youth, adults, and seniors in Maricopa County. We hold our community health classes in easy-to-reach locations like schools and HUD housing facilities.

1994: The Arizona Partnership for Immunization

Many childhood diseases are preventable. But that doesn't mean prevention always happens as it should. In the year before The Arizona Partnership for Immunization (TAPI) started, only 43 percent of two-year-olds in Arizona were fully immunized.

After TAPI's efforts, that number rose to close to 75 percent.

The new goal for TAPI's future is to bring that number to 90 percent by 2030. This could make a huge difference in childhood rates of diseases like measles and whooping cough.

2014: Navajo Department of Health Act

The Navajo Nation made a major move toward self-determination in healthcare in 2014. The Navajo Tribal Council approved an act establishing a Navajo Department of Health.

The new department's creation was a way to put community health and cultural competence at the forefront. And the legislation wasn't just for medicine and health care facilities. It also applied to things like restaurants and swimming pools.

Today, the Navajo Department of Health has 14 separate programs. And it serves about 300,000 members of the Navajo Nation.

2020: Passage of Jake's Law

Jake's Law is the collective name for two bills, Senate Bill 1523 and House Bill 2764, that passed in Arizona in March of 2020. The legislation was named after a boy named Jake Denslow who died by suicide at the age of 15.

In the months leading up to Denslow's death, he faced an insurance denial for a longer inpatient mental health stay. This is one of the many cases that have highlighted the need for mental health parity over the years. In other words, this was a reminder of the importance to treat mental health like we treat physical health when it comes to insurance coverage.

According to Arizona governor Doug Ducey's website, Jake's Law "requires health care insurers to cover mental health without additional barriers." Its details are especially geared toward suicide prevention in youth. The legislation protects coverage in educational settings and calls for a Children's Behavioral Health Service Fund.

Looking Ahead to the Future

These milestones in Arizona healthcare have opened up a world of new possibilities moving forward. As we learn how to deal with new public health crises like COVID-19, we can draw from our state's rich history of resilience and community-building. And Esperança will be there every step of the way.

If you would like to support our cause, you can help out with a tax-deductible donation today. We will use our community knowledge and experience to build a better path for the future of Arizona's health.

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