Awards, Studies, and Highlights


February 2024

First-of-its-Kind Study Reveals Potential Impact of Behavioral Health Crisis Systems on Reducing Costly, Avoidable Hospital Events

Access to a comprehensive behavioral health crisis response system can lessen demand for more restrictive and costly emergency department and inpatient services, according to a new research study published in the journal Psychiatric Services.
The study was conducted by a team that included researchers from Arizona State University Center for Health Information and Research and Connections Health Solutions.

he study examined how people flow through the crisis system in Arizona, which over the past several decades has built a comprehensive infrastructure that heavily influenced the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) national vision for crisis care ensuring people in crisis have someone to call (988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline), someone to respond (mobile crisis response teams), and a safe place to go for help (specialized crisis facilities). The analysis revealed:

  • The majority of individuals (57.4%) entered the crisis system through mobile crisis or crisis facilities versus the emergency department, indicating the crucial role these services play in crisis response.
  • Of the subset of individuals receiving care at the Connections Health Solutions Tucson Crisis Response Center, most (63.3%) did not reutilize any additional crisis or emergency services within 30 days.
  • Of individuals who did reutilize services, the majority (73.0%) utilized mobile or facility-based crisis services rather than emergency department or inpatient services, affirming the significance of crisis systems in preventing hospital utilization.

Read the complete study

2023 Year in Review
January 2024
2023 was a year of extraordinary change for AHCCCS. The agency welcomed a new Cabinet Executive Officer and restructured to better focus on systems and operational enhancements. We addressed an unprecedented fraudulent billing scheme that jeopardized member safety and, as the pandemic ended, we returned to regular renewals and began the 12-month process to determine eligibility for all 2.5 million AHCCCS members.

Arizona Highlighted for Direct Care Worker Training & Recruitment Strategies
February 2023
The Direct Service Workforce (DSW) Learning Collaborative, created by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), facilitates the development, implementation, and expansion of innovative strategies for strengthening the DSW, and addresses specific challenges among state Medicaid agencies. Arizona was highlighted for two successful training and recruitment strategies.

Arizona’s Home Health Aide/Direct Care Worker Training Program was highlighted as a successful training strategy to address the direct care worker training need. This high school-based program qualifies graduates to work as direct care workers in Arizona's networks of long-term care service providers. Each of the 20 high schools currently offering the program are approved by AHCCCS and are currently serving approximately 800 students.

Arizona was also highlighted for a successful recruitment strategy, implemented by AHCCCS managed care contractor, MercyCare, and its provider, Solterra, a senior living company. Together, they launched Careworks. Careworks strives to bring more benefits and services to the Direct Service Workforce (DSW) such as providing a free tuition platform and hourly compensation for a caregiver certificate.
Read more from CMS

2022 Year in Review
January 2023
In 2022, AHCCCS enhanced health care service delivery, increased its use of technology to serve customers, and received national recognition for innovative work to address health related social needs.

September 2022
AHCCCS received a 2022 Medicaid Innovation Award presented by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP). The nonpartisan award recognizes states for demonstrating creativity, leadership, and progress in their Medicaid programs despite significant public health challenges in recent years.

AHCCCS received the award for its work on initiatives to address social determinants of health and their impact on whole person care. Specifically, the program was recognized for developing the Whole Person Care Initiative, which offers a range of support services to enrollees including transitional housing; referrals for and transportation to community-based services such as employment and food assistance; and long-term care services to reduce social isolation.
2022 Medicaid Innovation Award

2021 Office of Individual and Family Affairs Year in Review
April 2022
The AHCCCS Office of Individual and Family Affairs works to engage the community and ensure that members and their families have a voice in the agency's decisions.

State Efforts to Address Medicaid Home and Community Based Services Workforce Shortages
March 2022
MACPAC included Arizona's efforts to identify and address barriers to home and community based worker recruitment and retention in this study.

2021 Year in Review
January 4, 2022
Although the COVID-19 public health emergency continued to be an overarching priority in 2021, AHCCCS achieved significant innovations in technology, policy, and service delivery that will streamline business processes and improve care coordination.

Promoting Access in Medicaid and CHIP Managed Care
July 2021
Published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, this June 2021 report highlights the agency's efforts to integrate physical and behavioral health services for Medicaid beneficiaries in Arizona.

Arizona Paid Caregiver Survey Report
June 2021
In Arizona, paid caregivers—including direct care workers, paid family caregivers, and direct support professionals, among others—provide critical daily support to thousands of older adults and people with disabilities. As the need for these essential workers escalates, the state faces a pressing question: what can be done to improve paid caregiving jobs and enhance the supports that these workers deliver? To help address this question, PHI partnered with four AHCCCS managed care organizations to survey the paid caregiver workforce about their experiences and insights.

MACPAC June 15, 2021 Report to Congress
June 2021
The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) highlighted Arizona's NEMT benefit, integrated benefit for dually eligible populations, and crisis system in its June 15, 2021 report to Congress.

Spotlight on Member Engagement and Elevating the Consumer Voice
April 2021
States and Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) use member advisory councils to shape Medicaid strategy, service design, delivery, and program structure at the state and plan level. Elevating the consumer voice through advisory councils ensures that the experiences of Medicaid members inform program design and policy decisions and improves access to care. However, while advisory councils are a mechanism for elevating member voice and input on Medicaid and health plan service delivery, consumer engagement and retention within these advisory structures is often very challenging. This NORC study details how Banner Health and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) are working together to engage Medicaid members in advisory councils.

Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) And Risk Adjustment: Arizona Medicaid Innovations
March 16, 2021
The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) has recently updated the methodology for risk adjusting capitation rates paid to ACC MCOs. With the recent recognition of the impact that socio-economic factors have on an individual’s well-being, health outcomes, and health care costs, several state Medicaid programs have begun to incorporate a limited number of social risk factors (commonly referred to as social determinants of health (SDOH)) into their risk adjustment methodologies. Read the study by Wakely.

Medicaid Forward: Behavioral Health
February 26, 2021
AHCCCS is highlighted for its crisis services in Medicaid Forward: Behavioral Health, a report published by the National Association of Medicaid Directors that provides examples of evidence-backed, sustainable policy and program solutions that states are implementing to improve Medicaid members' mental health and well-being.

2020 Year in Review
January 7, 2021
The COVID-19 public health emergency was an overarching priority in 2020 as AHCCCS worked to put measures in place to ensure provider viability and member access to care. Technology,policy, and member service innovations like APEP, Electronic Visit Verification, and American Indian Medical Homes will streamline business processes and improve care coordination.

OIFA Year in Review
February 18, 2021
AHCCCS' Office of Individual and Family Affairs were hard at work in 2020, exceeding their goals and engaging the community and our stakeholders. They engaged with 9,792 community members and stakeholders, created 10 new empowerment tools, resolved member's issues, hosted community forums, provided Jacob's Law training, and so much more.

SAMHSA SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery
November 2020
SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) helps states and communities increase access to Social Security disability benefits for eligible adults and children who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and have a serious mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder. SOAR spotlighted AHCCCS for adding behavioral health support services to its policy manual, broadening access to community mental health programs.

Building State Capacity to Address Behavioral Health Needs Through Crisis Services and Early Intervention
November 9, 2020, Millbank Memorial Fund
To help ensure patients experiencing a behavioral health crisis are able to get the right care at the right time in the right place, states such as Arizona have developed behavioral health crisis models of care that provide early intervention and divert individuals in crisis from hospitals, jails, and prisons.

AHCCCS Receives Leadership in Policy Award for COVID-19 Response
July 30th, 2020
On July 23, Director Jami Snyder accepted the 2020 Leadership in Policy Award from the ASU Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, AHCCCS made two commitments,” said Snyder, who accepted the award. “One, ensuring access to care for members during the public health emergency, and two, maintaining the ongoing viability of the provider network.”

Dr. Michael Franczak, Director of Population Health at Partners in Recovery, presented the award to the AHCCCS leadership team (who attended via webinar), specifically noting the policy changes implemented to address the COVID-19 public health emergency. Reading from the nomination submitted by Mary Jo Whitfield, vice president of behavioral health at Jewish Family & Children’s Service, he cited an extensive, including the agency’s ability to streamline provider enrollment, change the PASRR assessment process, provide continuous eligibility to enrolled members, waive member premiums and co-pays, provide COVID-19 testing reimbursement, and expand respite care.


2019 Year in Review
January 2, 2020
AHCCCS realized many innovations and improvements to system delivery and technology in 2019. Highlights include integrating physical and behavioral health services for 99% of enrolled members, adding new provider transportation types, expanding telehealth to increase access to services in rural areas, and serving 41,000 Arizonans with Opioid Use Disorder.

Independent Evaluation Of Arizona's Medicaid Integration Efforts Programs for Children's Rehabilitative Services and Persons Determined to Have a Serious Mental Illness
November 2018, Mercer Health and Benefits LLC
In 2013 and 2014, AHCCCS integrated physical and behavioral health services for members eligible for Children's Rehabilitative Service and for members in Maricopa County with a Serious Mental Illness determination. For both populations, the majority of measures showed improvement between the pre-integration and post-integration periods. These results support that the care delivered to members during the post-integration period showed improvement in many areas, and that the patient experience with health care has improved for both populations.

Platinum Award, Healthy Arizona Worksites
May 22, 2018

Strengthening Medicaid Long-Term Services and Supports in an Evolving Policy Environment: A Toolkit for States
December 2017, Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc.
Arizona is one of several states featured in this Center for Health Care Strategies study for its efforts around increased HCBS housing supports and care delivery alignment for dually eligible members.

Inmate Pre-release Medicaid Application Process Named “Good Government”
December 11, 2017
AHCCCS, AZ Department of Corrections, and AZ Department of Economic Security shared the Good Government Award, recognition from Governor Doug Ducey for improving inmates’ access to health care upon their release.

Advancing Medicare and Medicaid Integration: Key Program Features and Factors Driving State Investment
November 2017, Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc.
More than 11 million Americans are "duals," meaning they are eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. As one of 10 states participating in Implementing New Systems of Integration for Dually Eligible Enrollees (INSIDE), a learning collaborative led by the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS), Arizona is highlighted for key features that increase alignment and care coordination for this complex population of more than 155,000 of the state's citizens.

Moving Toward Value-Based Payment for Medicaid Behavioral Health Services
June 2017, Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc.
Value-based payments (VBP) shift the way Medicaid health plans and providers pay for health care services. Instead of the traditional model of paying for volume, VBPs rewarding high-quality outcomes, and have been shown to slow cost growth. The Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc. report illustrates how innovative states and Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) in Arizona, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee are using physical health VBP models to create new arrangements in their behavioral health programs.

State and Health Plan Strategies to Grow Enrollment in Integrated Managed Care Plans for Dually Eligible Beneficiaries
June 2017, Integrated Care Resource Center
Arizona is highlighted in this report from the Integrated Care Resource Center as one state that serves dually eligible Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries by contractually requiring its health plans to serve as Medicare Advantage Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan (D-SNP) and promoting enrollment or alignment of dual eligible members into the same health plan for both Medicaid and Medicare to the greatest extent.

How Arizona Medicaid Accelerated the Integration of Physical and Behavioral Health Services
May 2017, The Commonwealth Fund
Where most states still divide the responsibility of physical and behavioral health across different agencies, Arizona consolidated these Medicaid services under AHCCCS in 2015. The Commonwealth Fund report highlights how AHCCCS’ efforts increased attention to behavioral health services, improved cross- communication and mutual trust, and streamlined service delivery for the health care plans, the providers and the members.

Gold Award, Healthy Arizona Worksite Program
May 24, 2017

When Work Works award
May 23, 2017

State Strategies: Value-Based Payment for Medicaid Populations with Complex Care Needs
April 2017, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
To improve care coordination and manage costs, the Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS) managed by AHCCCS uses a value-based model to purchase and assess long-term services and supports.

Improving Value for Dual Eligible Beneficiaries: The Role of D-SNPs
March 2017, Anthem Public Policy Institute
This report from Anthem Public Policy Institute examines the role that dual eligible special needs plans (D-SNPs) can play in improving care delivery and health outcomes for individuals who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid benefits, and highlights Arizona’s successful efforts to lower rates of hospitalization and emergency department use.

State Insights on Refining Integrated Care for Dually Eligible Beneficiaries
December 2016, Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc.
Arizona is one of only three states that coordinate care for dual eligible beneficiaries by pairing D-SNP with a Medicaid managed long-term services and supports program.

Connecting the Justice-Involved Population to Medicaid Coverage and Care: Findings from Three States
June 2016, The Kaiser Family Foundation
Arizona is leading efforts to connect the justice-involved population to Medicaid coverage and care, suspend eligibility for incarcerated individuals, and help those with significant health needs as they transition out of incarceration. According to the study, “these approaches have increased coverage, facilitated access to care, and contributed to administrative efficiencies and state savings…”

Value-Based Payments in Medicaid Managed Care: An Overview of State Approaches
February 2016, Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc.
AHCCCS is one of seven state Medicaid agencies highlighted in this study for accelerating value-based payment adoption through MCO contract requirements with graduated payment targets.

The 2016 United Cerebral Palsy Report named AHCCCS top Medicaid programs for individuals with developmental disabilities

When Work Works Award

State Mental Health Legislation 2015: Trends, Themes and Effective Practices
December 2015, National Alliance on Mental Illness
Arizona is named among only 12 states that have steadily increased investments in mental health services.

Home is Where the Health Is
June 27, 2015, The Arizona Republic

Arizona keeps costs low on long-term care spending, Moody's says
May 23, 2015, The Arizona Republic