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Lawmaker proposes bill to bring new governing board to Arizona State Hospital

Senator David Gowan introduced state Senate Bill 1716. It would transfer the state hospital’s powers, duties and responsibilities from the DHS to its own board.
Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 8:47 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Arizona State Hospital could soon be getting new leadership. A state lawmaker is pushing to bring in a new governing board to keep a closer eye on critical issues like staffing and the safety of patients and staff.

Right now, the State Hospital is licensed and operated by the Department of Health Services. A Senate bill aims to pull the hospital from the department and give it more attention. Anonymous hospital employees say new leadership is crucial.

“If taxpayers knew what was going on in the state hospital, if they knew what was happening within those walls, they would be appalled,” an anonymous employee said.

Two State Hospital workers we spoke with describe the environment as dangerous and unhealthy. “It is not progressive and is very stagnant,” one worker said.

In November, we reported two patient suicides in the hospital within one month. Reports obtained by Arizona’s Family show security cameras were not working in the area where one of the incidents happened. “We’re in crisis mode,” another hospital worker said.

The employees are frustrated with their leadership and feel concerns are not being heard. “There is no improvement going on, and no one saying, hey, this shouldn’t be happening. I feel like basically there are no checks and balances for administration,” one employee said.

But there could soon be a solution. Senator David Gowan introduced state Senate Bill 1716. It would transfer the state hospital’s powers, duties and responsibilities from the DHS to its own governing board.

The board will be made of five members with experience in a hospital or health care administration. “So they’ll be the ones that direct everything that happens at the state hospital,” Senator David Gowan said. “We need to bring the Arizona State Hospital to date; this era per se, there are things going on over there that just haven’t come up to par in my personal view.”

Gowan says the board would address fixing facilities that need improvements and help with hospital staffing. “I think we can correct any situation that has occurred there, if there has, so much quicker,” Gowan said.

The bill has passed through the Senate and is now in the House for consideration. If passed, the board would begin oversight in January of next year.