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November 21, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Child Safety Task Force

  |   Video
  • State Representative Katie Hobbs, a social worker who was hoping to have a seat on the Governor’s Child Safety Task Force, discusses her ideas for reforming Child Protective Services.
  • Katie Hobbs - State Representative
Category: Community   |   Keywords: CPS, children, abuse, task force,

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Ted Simons: The Arizona Child Safety Task Force is considering recommendations to the state's child welfare system. Democrats wanted Representative Katie Hobbs on the task force because of her extensive experience in social work, but she was not appointed to the panel. Joining us to talk about her ideas for reforming CPS is Representative Katie Hobbs. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Katie Hobbs: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Why did you want to be on the panel?

Katie Hobbs: I've been a social worker for 20 years, and I've never had a job that I didn't interact with Child Protective Services, so I think with my background I would have added value to the task force. Just my experience. And the governor appointed a member of every caucus except for ours, so we did ask her to appoint me after she had made appointments, and she didn't respond to that request.

Ted Simons: Okay, what changes do you want to see at CPS, and why?

Katie Hobbs: Well, I think number one, I don't begin to think I have all the answers. But I'm a little leery of a task force that is meeting for two meetings and is making recommendations in a very short period of time. CPS is a very complex system, and I think the answers to the problems are very complex. And so there's a lot of areas that need to be locked at. I think one of the big ones is a work force issue, and I'm really concerned that director Carter has put in his budget request for DES and hasn't requested any additional funding for Child Protective Services, and he's defending that saying that it's not a resource issue it's an efficiency issue. And I just really think that it is a resource issue. We have workers that are working at 50-65% above their recommended case levels for whatever area they're in, if they're investigative or in home or out of home services. They're way above the recommended case levels. Turnover at the agency is 20-25%. So at any given time there's a huge number of vacancies. And I've heard him say we need to fill this 50-some positions. But that doesn't address the fact that number one, new caseworkers can't take a big case load, they can only take one or two cases for a certain number of weeks, and they need to have this continuous revolving door. That's a huge issue. That's one. There's talk about let's stop the whole idea of reunification. I think there's cases where it's warranted and cases where it's not. You can't take a one size fits all approach. Especially when you look at the huge amounts of cuts that have happened in the last few years to the entire safety net of services prevention services, services that can keep families together and keep kids safe in their homes. We have gutted those. And so you can talk about removing all the kids, but there's also an issue of where do you put all those kids. There's 4,000 kids right now waiting to be adopted, there's not enough foster homes, we've cut resources for foster families, so there's a huge amount of issues.

Ted Simons: And it seems as though this is an issue that swings back and forth. Reunifying families, getting the kids out of the families, is it just going to go on forever here? And is CPS in Arizona a situation, a dissimilar to child protective agencies in other states? Because if someone else is doing something proper and doing something that's getting good results, why aren't we looking over there?

Katie Hobbs: Right. I think we should absolutely be looking at other states that have models that are working. And implement the things that make sense in Arizona. And I think we have these periods of intense public scrutiny when a lot of bad things happen, and we've seen a huge number of child deaths in the last year, and it's good that there's public scrutiny. I think we need to put in place a way to maintain that public scrutiny all the time. Child protective services is an agency that needs to be accountable to the public, and they're not. And so we need to put in systems that makes that accountability favorite -- how they do business every day.

Ted Simons: Director Carter says he wants to see changes but he wants them to be strategic, deliberate, and methodical. Make sense to you?

Katie Hobbs: Absolutely. When you're talking about a system as big as CPS, that is very important. I don't think you can do that in a two-month task force.

Ted Simons: Okay, so what do you want to see out of this task force?

Katie Hobbs: I hope the task force is the beginning. I think the task force members really want to do the right thing. I hope they look at a lot of issues and not just go in thinking, “Okay, we already have the answer this is what we need to do.” I really hope they listen to all of the sides of the issue and not just focus on one aspect.

Ted Simons: First of all, your experience as a social worker, talk to us more about that, your background.

Katie Hobbs: My first job out of college was working in a homeless shelter for youth. We had kids that were basically aging out of the foster care system. And then I worked in mental health and I've worked with domestic violence. And in the mental health system we had at the kids who were in the CPS system who needed counseling and services for the trauma that they had experienced, the trauma of believe it or not kids that are taken away from abusive parents experience sometimes more trauma from that than they do from the abuse. And then with domestic violence, there's a 60% correlation between domestic violence and CPS, and so we had a lot of mom who's got to the shelter and got safe, and then were working on getting their kids back. If we could give CPS workers the tools to work on both domestic violence and child abuse, then they would have the tools to help the mom and the kid be safe and kind of skip that step of removing the kids from the home in the meantime.

Ted Simons: With that background and that experience, biggest misconception you think that's out there regarding CPS.

Katie Hobbs: I think that the statement that we've heard over and over again from the task force that we have to stop just focusing on reunification. I don't think that is the main focus. I think that these workers that are not supported and under resourced have a huge balancing act. They make life and death decisions every day. And I think that they're trying to do the best they can with the resources they have. So I think it's not all about reunification, and there are sometimes where it's appropriate to try to preserve the family. If you can provide appropriate services to make sure the kids are safe.

Ted Simons: Last question, you mentioned that the budget needs to change. There needs to be more in the way of resources, more in the way of funding. That seems to be a nonstarter, with the commission and with the legislature. Certainly there are ways to get around, are there not, to get improvements without that increase in funding?
Katie Hobbs: I don't know what type of efficiencies that Director Carter is looking at, and certainly you might be able to do some things there. I think every state agency is probably operating on a very balanced budget because of all the cuts in the last few years. So I don't know. I just think that really resources need to be directed at this issue.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Katie Hobbs: Thank you.

Controlling Diabetes

  |   Video
  • Tim Vaske, head of the Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease for the Arizona Department of Health Services, talks about the incidence and impact of diabetes in Arizona and programs that help control the disease.
  • Tim Vaske - Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease, Arizona Department of Health Services
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: health, diabetes,

View Transcript

Ted Simons: An estimated one out of nine Arizonans has diabetes, with rates even higher in the Asian, Hispanic, African-American, and Native-American populations. But there are programs set up to help fight the disease. Here to talk about the impact of diabetes on Arizona is Tim Vaske, he's head of the Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease for the Arizona Department of Health Services. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Tim Vaske: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: How much does diabetes cost Arizona?

Tim Vaske: It's an alarming rate. The cost of diabetes, we're talking about $2.4 billion a year in Arizona for the cost of treating diabetes. And that's just the direct cost. When you take into indirect costs, it's much higher.

Ted Simons: The incidents have more than doubled since 1990? What's going on here?

Tim Vaske: Yes, it's more than doubled. Right now about 8.6% of adults in Arizona have diabetes or been told they have diabetes, and one of the things we know is that there's probably about 3% of Arizona adults who have diabetes and aren't even aware of it. I think lots of it has to do with just our lifestyles have changed. We've become much more sedentary in our lifestyles, we're not as physically active, we're not eating as healthy so it's starting to catch up with us now.

Ted Simons: There's some line of reasoning that there might be something in the food we eat, whether it's processed, packaged, something that didn't exist in previous -- there's a line of reasoning that says if it's not the food your great grandmother ate, it's not really food. Do you see something out there not so much how much we eat, but in what we eat?

Tim Vaske: I think what we eat plays as major role. We're eating a lot more refined sugars and we're eating out a lot more, more Arizonans, more adults, more Americans actually would rather stop and pick up something on their way home from work rather than make the meal themselves. Or else if they do stop they'll pick up the packaged meal which is going to be high in sugar and fats.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about early detection. Are there state programs to help folks with this? That's a major factor as well, is it not?.

Tim Vaske: Yes, there are state programs. One thing that you always want to consider is having a strong relationship with your primary care provider, so when you go in for your annual physical make sure have you your blood glucose tested. Make sure have you a strong relationship with your primary care provider, and talk to them about your lifestyle habits and ask them or have them kind of probe you.

Ted Simons: Yeah, I guess. Is that the state program? Is that basically what it is, get to know your doctor?

Tim Vaske: It really is, or there are programs for diabetes health management. It's more for those who actually have diabetes. So diabetes health management training essentially what it is, it's an evidence-based program for those who have diabetes to better manage their conditions, so to better manage their physical activity, nutrition, their risk factors, medication adherence. One of the things we're finding is those with strong medication or strong management of their condition, the quality of their life will go up as well as they'll have reduced hearing costs associated with their chronic condition.

Ted Simons: What about prevention?

Tim Vaske: Being physically active, it's not smoking, it's having a nutritious diet. For many Arizonans, for many adults, about 25% of Arizonans are pre-diabetic, so they're at high risk of developing diabetes. Some of the things they dork to prevent it is maybe go for a walk, losing five pounds can drastically reduce your chances of developing diabetes if you are overweight or pre-diabetic.

Ted Simons: Interesting. As far as free education and these programs and things like that, what's out there, and are folks taking advantage of this stuff or do they even know it exists?

Tim Vaske: Unfortunately a lot of folks aren't taking advantage of it. There are programs from the American Diabetes Association, there's programs with the YMCA on diabetes prevention, especially for those who have been told they are pre-diabetic. Many Arizonans do not take advantage of it, and part of it is if you think about it, this is really lifetime of change. So it takes a lifetime for many to develop their diabetes, and it's a lifetime of behavior. So you can't expect people to change overnight without behavior modification.

Ted Simons: We talked about programs, everything from getting to know your doctor better to other aspects. What can the state do better to get information about diabetes out there? You mentioned there's a lot of folks walking around don't even realize they have it.

Tim Vaske: We're working closely with our community partners, with community health centers, with our county partners. State health offices, our county health officers, trying to push the information out in regards to diabetes awareness. We're pairing very closely with the American Diabetes Association, as this is American diabetes month, so we're trying to get that message out there. But unfortunately there just aren't the resources in the state of Arizona to address this.

Ted Simons: And really, again, I would say the number one thing is get to know your doctor and get that test. But obesity has to be the prime factor here. It just seems like that's always involved, not always, mostly involved in cases of diabetes. Correct?

Tim Vaske: Yes, obesity is the driving factor for diabetes right now. When you have so many Arizonans who have high diabetes, or high body mass index, over 30, so they're overweight, obese, you're going to find increased incidents of diabetes. Especially amongst various different populations, among the Hispanic, African-American, Native-American population, we're finding higher rates of obesity, drastically higher rates of diabetes as well.

Ted Simons: All right. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Tim Vaske: Thanks for having me.

Independent Redistricting Commission

  |   Video
  • IRC attorney Mary O’Grady talks about the redistricting process and the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate Colleen Mathis as chairwoman of the IRC, after she was removed from office by the Governor with consent of the State Senate.
  • Mary O'Grady - IRC Attorney
Category: Government   |   Keywords: government, redistricting, commission, Mathis,

View Transcript

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The mother of a missing 5-year-old Glendale girl has been arrested. Glendale police announced today that they are charging Jerice Hunter with child abuse in the disappearance of Jahessye Shockley. Police also said that recent evidence indicates that there is little hope of finding that child alive. The Arizona Supreme Court issued a swift ruling in reinstating Redistricting Commission Chair Colleen Mathis who had been removed from office by the governor and Republicans in the state senate. Mary O'Grady represented the commission and Mathis before the court and is here tonight to talk about the case. Good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Mary O'Grady: Glad to be here.

Ted Simons: Were you surprised this decision happened so quickly?

Mary O'Grady: I wasn't surprised the court quickly issued an order getting to the bottom line of what they were going to do in the case and said they'll issue more detailed decision that explains their reasoning later.

Ted Simons: Oral arguments, what seemed to stick? What were the justices especially interested in?

Mary O'Grady: They were especially interested in the basic jurisdictional issues, particularly the question of whether this was a political question that they really shouldn't get involved with. I wanted to start out by talking about the merits, about why this removal was improper, and right off the bat they said let's talk about jurisdiction. That's what they wanted to talk about first.

Ted Simons: As far as we know, because we only have the short explanation as to why the justices decided as they did, but they mentioned three things. First that they do have jurisdiction, secondly, was this idea that these issues are not only political, they are justiciable. We had a general counsel on, and he emphasized on this fact. What he saw this was as just like an impeachment. Entirely political. Here's what the general counsel had to say a couple weeks ago.

Joe Sciarratta: This is a nonjusticible manner. Under the separation of powers doctrine under the Arizona Constitution, which is Supreme Court has said is the strongest in the United States of America, this decision was entrusted to the governor, and then there is an important but exclusive check on the governor's authority and that is a two-thirds concurrence with the state senate. The governor removed Ms. Mathis, the state senate has concurred, that's where the decision begins and ends.

Ted Simons: I want to get your response on that in a second, but first, the Supreme Court said that's not where this begins and ends.

Hon. Andrew Hurwitz: If the governor said Ms. Chairman of the Independent Redistricting Commission, I do not like the cut of your hair, and I view that as gross misconduct, and two-thirds of the senate, not this senate, but a future senate might, two-thirds of the senate said “I concur” would that decision be reviewable by any court in the state in your view?

Lisa Hauser: No. And here's why. In any of these hypotheticals, including the one that I like to use, the commissioner shows up in a purple dress and the governor doesn't like purple. It all boils down to having some fundamental respect for the fact that the constitution commits this choice, this decision on removal to the governor with the two-thirds concurrence of the senate, those are both important things, even if the governor were to be a rogue sort of individual who might do something that would be very off the wall, we have to assume the senate will function correctly.

Ted Simons: What do you make of that? The idea is absurd, perhaps, dress, hair style, whatever, but the constitution basically does commit this responsibility, this action, to the governor with the senate protecting against a Rogue decision. Does it not?

Mary O'Grady: It does say this is the governor's responsibility, but her responsibility is limited to removing someone for gross misconduct in office or substantial neglect of duty. And it's the court's role to decide whether she complied with that constitutional requirement. And here the court decided that she did not. And there's always judicial review. Unless you get into the extreme circumstance where there is a political question where you can't develop manageable standards where the court could really address it, and that's not the case. These gross misconducts, those are the kinds of things courts decide all the time.

Ted Simons: So this is not necessarily similar to an impeachment?

Mary O'Grady: Absolutely not. They raised a couple of issues in their brief. One, they argued this was like an impeachment and it clearly isn't. Impeachment under the constitution, there's a trial in the senate, there's specific procedures in the constitution. This is a removal by the governor and courts review those all the time. And so we pointed the court to that precedent where the courts do review removals to see if they met the legal standard, and that's what applies here.

Ted Simons: When lawmakers say they can define, they can define gross misconduct as they choose because it is a political process, you and apparently the court are saying, the court still has a role to play in this.

Mary O'Grady: Absolutely. And I think for the questioning, explained why that is the case. If that's not the case the language doesn't have any meaning at all. That you could get someone reviewed because the governor doesn't like the color of her dress. That's not what the constitution requires. It limits the removal to gross misconduct substantial neglect for good reason. To make sure there's some way to remove an officer if there's true corruption, but not to get the politicians involved with the redistricting process, which is why we have Proposition 106 in the first place.

Ted Simons: Is this a situation, do you think where the governor simply did not explain herself clearly enough as for giving reasons for removal? Or, I should say and if that's the case, do you expect another letter from the governor's office?

Mary O'Grady: I hope we don't get another letter, candidly. I hope the commission is able to get on with its work. We did receive just this afternoon before I came here a motion to reconsider that the governor's office has filed with the court. We'll see if the court wants us to respond to that. But we also argue that it's not just a matter of lack of specificity in the letter, it's substantively wrong because she tried to remove Colleen Mathis for mapping decisions. And mapping decisions are the responsibility of the commission. And those can't be the basis for removing a commissioner.

Ted Simons: So when the governor says, her response to the Supreme Court's decision was, quote, “the IRC followed an unconstitutional redistricting process conducting too much of its business behind closed doors, disregarding mapping criteria seemingly at will, they did all of this without explanation.” She sees that as gross misconduct, negligence, the whole nine yards.

Mary O'Grady: Well, we would again argue about whether any of that is accurate. The commission has been doing all of its business in public meetings if people look at their website, they'll see video of the meetings, they'll see transcripts of the meetings, we've had more than 30 public meetings on the draft maps and another 20 or 25 when they were developing the maps. Very public process. And all of that process shows that they were looking at the constitutional criteria in trying to develop both the draft congressional and draft legislative map. People may differ as to whether they agree with where the lines landed, but that's the process they were following to develop these drafts.

Ted Simons: Where does that process stand as we speak? Because she's back, correct? She's back on the job. Is the job continuing? What's happening with the commission right now?

Mary O'Grady: The chair is back, she was reinstated Thursday, and so now they're in the process of organizing their next meeting, which will probably be next week at some point, checking with commissioners' schedules, and then they'll get back together and look at all the public comment they've received, and begin figuring out what sort of adjustments they want to make and move forward toward at some point adopting final maps.

Ted Simons: We originally heard they wanted to get something done by Thanksgiving or close to it. Obviously that's not going to happen. Do you have any indication what kind of timetable is at play here? There must be stacks of public comment.

Mary O'Grady: Absolutely. They've had a lot of public comment. And the commissioners have been spending time with that as the process has been proceeding. The chair's statement Friday said that perhaps by Christmas we'll get the maps done, but again, it depends on what the five of them decide to do when they get back together and look at the public comments and the maps and make those decisions.

Ted Simons: Last question, I want as best you can to respond to the criticisms, obviously of the chair woman, but of the commission in general that ignoring requirements regarding protecting communities of interest and emphasizing over everything, it seems, to your critics, competitive districts. And that's not even this whole open meeting situation where some commissioners thought things were done behind closed doors and phone calls. The governor and Republicans say the public has lost trust in the commission. How do you respond to that?

Ted Simons: Well, that's not what I hear when I go out to these public hearings and get the public comment. Yes, there may be criticism of the map, but I don't sense a lack of confidence in the process myself. But people may view it differently, depending on where you sit. In terms of the constitutional factors, they have been looking at all of them including competitiveness. That's definitely been a factor that was considered at this phase of the process as it's supposed to be considered. And then it's just a matter of how that factors into the development of the map.

Ted Simons: If someone were sitting here saying, I've heard all the stuff about the commission, and it sounds like the commission's chairman's bias, “biased czar”, I think a lawmaker called her, how would you tell them calm down, the process is working?

Mary O'Grady: I would tell them look at the website and you can see the public input that's been received, and you can see also that these are draft maps. When they were put out for public comment, all the commissioners said, I think we can get public comment on these now, I think we're ready for that, but there may be things I don't like about this and I'd like to see more changes. Some of the Democrats said, “I don't think the legislative districts are competitive enough. I'd like to see that changed.” Lots of those comments. So I think that they're drafts and let's see what the final product looks like.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Mary O'Grady: Nice to be here. Thanks for inviting me, Ted.