Earlier this year, Gov. Jan Brewer signed off on a $36 million reduction in funding to the Arizona Department of Health Services as part of an effort to close the state’s billion-dollar budget gap.
The cuts, which included a wide swath of treatments and services for the mentally ill, impacted about 12,000 adults and 2,000 children not covered by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program.
Arizona’s mental-health system became “a benchmark” for other agencies looking at cuts in the state’s budget discussions. Any agency wanting its program saved would have to prove why those programs were more important than funneling money back into behavioral health.
Publicly, Brewer called the cuts “tough” and “very painful.”
The governor has firsthand experience with the benefits those services bring to families, although she did not acknowledge it at the time. Her son, Ronald, has lived at the Arizona State Hospital for most of the past 20 years, following a court’s determination that he was not guilty of sexual assault and kidnapping because of mental illness.
Though Jan Brewer had never spoken publicly in detail about Ronald’s illness, it has served as a backdrop to her political career from her time in the state Legislature to becoming governor.
Read more here: Jan Brewer’s career shaped by son’s mental illness.
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