Clean and accurate voter rolls are a cornerstone to safe and secure elections. And they are required by both state and federal law. Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) specifically obligates states to conduct a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters due to death or change of residence. The U.S. Supreme Court even backed this up in its 2018 decision in the case Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute.
But Arizona’s current Secretary of State Adrian Fontes and its former Secretary of State (now Governor) Katie Hobbs have failed to perform the necessary voter list maintenance. And right now, 14 Arizona counties are in violation of Section 8 of the NVRA…
The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) will give $25 gift cards to attendees of an LGBTQ+ “health equity” event on Tuesday.
Attendance was limited to 30 people, or $750 in gift cards. Attendees were required to be at least 18 years old, living in Pima County, and identifying as an LGBTQ+ community member.
ADHS partnered with the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF) to host the event. SAAF confirmed with AZ Free News that there would be about 12 participants. Also helping facilitate the event was Lenartz Consulting — a company owned by Tracy Lenartz, a health planning consultant for ADHS. Recordings from these in-person listening sessions are anonymized and transferred to ADHS for review before being destroyed.
According to ADHS, referencing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “health equity” is defined as the fair and just opportunity for all to achieve the highest level of health. Equity is also at the center of the CDC’s 10 Essential Public Health Services framework, unchanged for 25 years until September 2020 — less than four months after the death of George Floyd, which spurred months of Black Lives Matter (BLM) riots and social justice campaigns across state and local governments.
“To achieve equity, the Essential Public Health Services actively promote policies, systems, and overall community conditions that enable optimal health for all and seek to remove systemic and structural barriers that have resulted in health inequities,” stated the CDC. “Such barriers include poverty, racism, gender discrimination, ableism, and other forms of oppression. Everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to achieve optimal health and well-being.”
ADHS adopted an “equity focus” as one of its core values, and added “advancing health equity” to their strategic map issued last year.
The map noted that “equity focused” meant that ADHS valued and respected diverse life differences. In order to understand its equity focus, ADHS suggested resources for the community such as training modules on social determinants of health and how health inequity is rooted in “powerlessness.”
The ADHS definition of social determinants of health suggests that personal behaviors and clinical care are only a minor part of what determines one’s health. The other, greater factors would be social, economic, and environmental conditions: policies, programs, systems, communities such as transportation options, segregation, housing, discrimination, crime, and poor quality of education.
The concept of powerlessness referenced by ADHS comes from institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO), which theorizes that a lack of social and institutional power inequities results in poorer health in the poor, minorities, and women. The WHO suggested that political interventions must be implemented in order to reverse negative health trends: legal reform, or changes in economic or social relationships.
ADHS also participates in an annual Arizona Health Equity Conference which tackles these issues. This year, they will be joined by Arizona State University (ASU) Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, Arizona Alliance For Community Health Centers, A.T. Still University, Dignity Health, Esperanca, Equality Health, FSL, Honor Health, Mayo Clinic, Mercy Care, and the University of Arizona (UArizona) Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.
This past week, Pima County began offering mental health services for minors without parental consent required, through a new program called “Not Alone.” Arizona law requires written or oral consent of a parent or legal guardian prior to a minor receiving mental health screenings or treatments.
Children under 13 years old must have their parents reach out to join the program. However, the program states that children 13 years old and older may obtain services without parental consent.
The program also will withhold information from parents. Clinicians won’t disclose information about a minor’s sexuality or gender identity, or any “consensual” sexual activity for minors aged 14 through 17, and will only inform parents if their child engages in a new form of self-harm.
Only in cases of suicidal intent, sexual or physical abuse, or expressed intent and planning to harm another then the program disclosed that a clinician will break confidentiality — but the program’s confidentiality protocols didn’t explicitly state that clinicians would inform parents.
According to the Parents’ Bill of Rights, the “liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, health careand mental health of their children is a fundamental right” (emphasis added). Statute also dictates that attempts to “encourage or coerce a minor child to withhold information from the child’s parent shall be grounds for discipline[.]” Pima County’s webpage for the new program encourages those 13 years old or older to independently contact the program partner, COPE Community Services, for help, information, or “just to talk.” The program also offers to come meet minors wherever they’re located to assist them, or to work with them virtually.
The Pima County Health Department announced the program, “Not Alone,” last Thursday. The program receives existing Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity (ELC) K-12 Schools Reopening Grant funding provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS).
The program specifically offers mental health services for both students and teachers diagnosed with COVID-19 after May 2021. Initial public statements on the program implied that the threat and experience of disease itself, and not the mitigation strategies such as forced school closures and distance learning, caused mental duress.
Theresa Cullen, the department director recently rejected by the Arizona legislature in her nomination by Gov. Katie Hobbs to lead the Department of Health Services, described the program in a letter as necessary to not only combat suicidal ideation in students but “compassion fatigue” for teachers.
“According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide remains the third leading cause of death for adolescents and 1 in 3 high school students reported that their mental health was not good. Teachers and staff often experience compassion fatigue, stress, and anxiety,” stated Cullen. “The ‘Not Alone’ campaign is designed to provide brief intervention treatment services for K-12 students and school faculty who have tested positive for COVID-19 since May 1, 2021,” stated Cullen.
Cullen was first appointed to the Pima County Health Department in June 2020. Senate Republicans called Cullen’s administration “repressive,” citing the curfew she imposed as one example, and noting that her policies to mitigate COVID-19 weren’t supported by science.
Overseeing the program is Matthew Schmidgall and Michael Webb, part of the department’s Youth and School Communities program. The program will also partner with several school districts to deploy an advertising campaign through social media, movie theaters, billboards, and radio.
The program also receives partnership assistance through pop star Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. The nonprofit offers a free mental health course online that awards a certificate upon completion, the “Be There Certificate,” which asks an individual which gender they “identify with,” with the option to select multiple genders and identities and if they’re transgender.
Fentanyl overdose kits are the latest among necessary school supplies for University of Arizona (UArizona) students.
Amid the burgeoning fentanyl crisis, Pima County supplied all 15 of the UArizona fraternity houses with fentanyl overdose treatment kits for the upcoming semester.
The county supplied the houses with Narcan kits as part of a year-long drive initiated by one of their Community Mental Health and Addiction interns, Aiden Pettit-Miller. UArizona’s Emergency Medical Services team and Interfraternity Council (IFC) also assisted.
Miller, a senior student at UArizona, says he launched the initiative after one of his high school friend’s roommates at Arizona State University (ASU) overdosed on fentanyl in 2020.
Narcan is the brand name for the medicine naloxone, and is also used to treat overdosing from other opioids: heroin, oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, and morphine. First responders rely on the treatment for suspected overdosing.
The Arizona Department of Health reports over 1,400 opioid deaths so far this year. AZDHS folds fentanyl-related deaths into the “RX/Synthetic” category, which includes “all other opioids” except heroin, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. This year, the number of RX/Synthetic deaths is nearly 1,400 (97 percent).
In 2021, there were over 2,000 opioid deaths; just over 1,900 (94 percent) of deaths were RX/Synthetic. The fatality rate per 100,000 population dropped this year from 28 percent to 20 percent.
Amid the border crisis ushered in by the Biden administration, fentanyl deaths arose as the leading cause of death among adults aged 18 to 45 years old.
Teens accounted for 77 percent of adolescent overdose deaths last year. The demographic spike correlated with efforts by cartels to ply youth with the deadly drug, such as “rainbow fentanyl.”
Fentanyl became the subject of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) first public safety alert in six years, issued last September. As part of their campaign to raise awareness about the deadliness of fentanyl, “One Pill Can Kill,” the DEA discovered that about 60 percent of fake prescription pills contain lethal doses of fentanyl. The discovery marked an increase from the 2021 average of 40 percent.
These fake pills are marketed and disguised to appear legitimate via social media and e-commerce platforms.
On college campuses like UArizona, victims of fentanyl overdosing range widely. The partygoer looking for a high and the student looking for extra focus are at equal risk. UArizona, along with ASU, ranks consistently as one of the top party schools in the nation, and Adderall is a popular go-to for students studying for exams or finishing hefty assignments. Both popular party drugs and study boosters may be obtained illicitly, and both are likely to contain deadly doses of fentanyl.
UArizona is also looking to create an organization called “Fraternities Fighting Fentanyl” with their School of Public Health, the fraternities, and the student-run emergency medical service. The organization will hand out fentanyl test strips, Narcan, and educational pieces to students.
Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cázares-Kelly told reporters on Wednesday that it may be another week before they finish counting ballots.
The county has over 159,700 ballots left to be counted.
That’s just 63 percent of their ballots counted, the lowest percentage out of all reported counties — even Maricopa County, which experienced widespread tabulation machine failures for around eight hours, most of Election Day.
The delay follows several significant changes in the county’s election procedures.
Earlier this summer, Cázares-Kelly prohibited political party observers for the primary election. The county also introduced vote centers this election, rather than the traditional method of having votes cast based on precinct. The county halved their operations from 280 voting precinct locations to 129 vote centers.
More recently, Cázares-Kelly was involved in the Proposition 309 controversy with Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer. Prop 309 would tighten ID requirements for in-person and early voting, which Richer opposed. As Arizona Association of County Recorders (AACR) president, Richer issued a false public statement that all 15 county recorders supported an anti-Prop 309 statement. It was Cázares-Kelly’s idea to include the recorders’ names.
Richer used county resources to advance development of his anti-Prop 309 letter. He is facing a complaint filed with the Attorney General’s Office (AGO).
There’s approximately 619,000 uncounted ballots remaining. Track updates to ballot counting here. Track updates to all of the races here.