Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 9, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

CPS Audit

  |   Video
  • Arizona Office of the Auditor General found that Child Protective Services investigators are failing to investigate complaints of abuse in group homes and treatment centers in a required time frame.
Guests:
  • Jakki Hillis - Acting Assistant Director, DES Division of Children, Youth, and Families
Category: Culture

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
A recent state audit of Child Protective Services accuses the agency of failing to investigate complaints of abuse in treatment centers and group homes in the required time frame. The auditor general's report also found gaps in recordkeeping at C.P.S. that allowed employees at treatment centers with substantiated complaints of child abuse to find new jobs in group homes, where they've committed further abuse. Joining me tonight to talk about the audit and what C.P.S. is doing about the findings is Jakki Hillis, acting assistant director of the Division of Children, Youth and Families with C.P.S. Thank you for joining us tonight. We appreciate seeing you here.

Jakki Hillis:
It's my pleasure.

Ted Simons:
The idea of C.P.S. not investigating abuse in a required time. That's 21 days?

Jakki Hillis:
The 21-day time frame is to enter the findings in the system. To document the findings.

Ted Simons:
Ok. That was met only 3% of the time according to the report. What happened?

Jakki Hillis:
Let me explain. First and foremost, that Child Protective Services responded to the reports in a very timely manner. We quickly responded to make face-to-face contact with the children involved and to take actions needed to ensure child safety. The timeliness of the initial response and the appropriateness of the initial response is not what's in question. What the audit findings indicate are that we need to do a better job in terms of our case record documentation of all of the investigative activities taking place throughout the course of the investigation, including getting the findings entered into the system within the required time frames. On that point, we certainly agree with the findings and have already taken action to improve the timeliness of case record documentation.

Ted Simons:
So at a better rate than 3%. Was it enough contact to where children were not as much at harm? Sounds like the report says investigations of what was going on weren't happening in a timely fashion.

Jakki Hillis:
Again, the initial response to ensure the child safety has been happening in a very timely manner. If you read the report very carefully, it focuses on completion of the investigation and the documentation throughout the course of the investigation. That's the area where we need to be more timely.

Ted Simons:
With that in mind, does C.P.S. needed to reprioritize investigations?

Jakki Hillis:
In terms of the investigation process, the initial response obviously to ensure child safety is absolutely the top priority. I don't see any need to change that. Again, when we're talking about the documentation over the course of the rest of the investigation, as indicated in our response, we certainly agree with the findings of the auditor there.

Ted Simons:
Reprioritizing the rest of the investigations would be something that could be in order?

Jakki Hillis:
Absolutely and taking steps to ensure that that documentation is happening in a timely manner.

Ted Simons:
Are there differences in investigating group homes and single family homes?

Jakki Hillis:
There can be in terms of number of children who may need to be interviewed and oftentimes number of adults who need to be interviewed. In a group home, you may have different staff involved in the facility at different times. Oftentimes, just by sheer number of individuals involved, that can be a key difference, as compared to the typical family home.

Ted Simons:
The audit report also mentioned are residential treatment workers getting jobs at smaller group homes that C.P.S. oversees. How did that happen?

Jakki Hillis:
Let me say with regard to the specific situation that was referenced, that individual was placed on the C.P.S. central registry, the database where substantiated reports are recorded, quite some type ago at the point in time that we had the information to substantiate the report and due process procedure had been completed. In that particular instance, as soon as we had a report with enough evidence to substantiate the allegations, the case manager entered -- the proposed finding which triggered the due process for that individual to provide notification and that individual's opportunity to request further review or appeal. It was during the due process time frame that this individual went on to work for another agency, and actually was terminated within a short time frame, before the due process had been completed. By Arizona law, we cannot enter a substantiated finding on the central registry until due process has been completed to ensure that individuals are not falsely labeled.

Ted Simons:
That sounds like a long answer in response to someone who should not have been around children being around children for a substantial period. How does that change? What needs to be done so that doesn't happen again?

Jakki Hillis:
There's two pieces. The first is the timeliness of the case record finding entered into the system and as we've established, that's something that we're committed to improving. The second is the due process time frame and the reality is there's that window of opportunity by Arizona law because due process is a right afforded to individuals. So there's that window of opportunity during the appeals process where a person can apply for a job in another agency.

Ted Simons:
Can we close that window of opportunity?

Jakki Hillis:
That would require statutory change.

Ted Simons:
Are you working for that statutory change?

Jakki Hillis:
At this point in time, we're not proposing that, it's something that could be explored.

Ted Simons:
Is that something -- ok. So something you could look at down the road, perhaps?

Jakki Hillis:
Policymakers could take a look at that. The reality is due process is a fundamental right in this country and certainly the state. So again, it goes back to the concern that individuals in the state would have in terms of not wanting to be falsely labeled. So that due process is a right that is afforded under state law.

Ted Simons:
And I think most folks would understand that, but most folks would also understand that someone was around children when they shouldn't have been or seemed like they shouldn't have been and around children in two settings when they shouldn't have been. There's got to be a way to make sure due process is followed but that person is not around children. Is there a way to streamline the process and make sure that doesn't happen again?

Jakki Hillis:
Again, I guess I have to reference the timelines for the due process to a large extent are outlined in statute. The time frame by which an individual must receive notification and then has 14-day time period to respond to that notification and then the time frame, if they choose to appeal, so in order to make any changes there, it would require statutory change.

Ted Simons:
Would you like to see statutory change on this?

Jakki Hillis:
At this point, I don't know that my personal views are what is most relevant. I certainly support due process rights, including those that apply to individuals being placed on the central registry. So I certainly would not want to do anything that would take away those rights that individuals would have.

Ted Simons:
But we would all agree, wouldn't want to do anything that would put children in harm's way with an employee, especially in group homes.

Jakki Hillis:
The absolute priority is to ensure the safety of the children. The C.P.S. registry check is just one factor that can be considered in terms of making employment decisions. So certainly, other actions such as checking references and so forth would be a critical component in terms of the hiring process.

Ted Simons:
Is there a disconnect between D.H.S. and C.P.S.?

Jakki Hillis:
Actually, the case cited involves an individual who is employed in group homes for a welfare agency, not R.T.C.'s. There's a separate issue in terms of R.T.C.'s not being investigated by Child Protective Services. In that case, the fundamental issue is it's not that those allegations go un-investigated. They are responded to. The authorities who do respond are simply not Child Protective Services. Department of Health Services which licenses the R.T.C.'s, investigates and where appropriate, law enforcement would be called in to investigate as well. I don't see any disconnect on that issue between D.E.S. and Department of Health Services. In fact, if the investigation were to involve a child who is in Child Protective Services custody, the C.P.S. manager would be informed and have that opportunity to take immediate protective action as needed.

Ted Simons:
The last question. Sounds like there is an agreement that something needs to change and improve. Sounds like D.E.S. is saying something needs to change and we will change it. We agree with everything. And yet I'm hearing explanations for a lot of this, that it may not be as bad as the audit spells out. Is it as bad at the audit spells out?

Jakki Hillis:
As indicated, we've agreed with the findings. I think that the information that I've been able to share here provides some context for each of the findings that were identified here. The entire array of responsibilities that Child Protective Services has are critical and there's no question about that. Even though I've made the point that C.P.S. has responded in a timely manner to the reports that have come in and agree that that is the most important aspect of ensuring child safety, the case documentation is also a part of our responsibility.

Ted Simons:
Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Jakki Hillis:
Thank you.

Funding for the Arts

  |   Video
  • Funding for the arts suffered a 42 percent drop recently, partly due to cuts by the legislature and partly due to decreased revenues. Brenda Sperduti of Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts talks about the drop in revenue and budget cuts.
Guests:
  • Brenda Sperduti - Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts
Category: The Arts

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Funding for the arts suffered a 42% drop recently, due in part to cuts by the legislature, as well as declining revenues. I'll talk to a representative of an Arizona arts advocacy group, but first, here's an example of art currently on display in Arizona. It's a clip from the play, "Wicked," the untold story of the witches of Oz. The musical is playing at A.S.U.'s Gammage Auditorium. Here now to talk about arts funding is Brenda Sperduti of the group Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts. Thanks for joining us tonight.

Brenda Sperduti:
It's a pleasure to be here.

Ted Simons:
How hard is the arts community getting hit right now with -- start with budget cuts and we'll take it from there.

Brenda Sperduti:
Well, of course, the state is experiencing just unprecedented budget shortfalls and so the arts is taking quite the hit. Proposals from the legislature had us cut anywhere from 39% up to 80%. And that's on tOP of already what arts organizations are experiencing. They're already laying people off because of shortfalls in contributions from foundations, from individuals, from corporations. But also ticket sales are down because of the sluggish economy. So you know, it's a tough time right now for the arts organizations.

Ted Simons:
It sounds like budgets are about 42%.

Brenda Sperduti:
Yeah, it turned out to be 42% cut overall in the state funding.

Ted Simons:
Could have been worse, then?

Brenda Sperduti:
Could have been much worse, yeah.

Ted Simons:
The impact of the arts in Arizona. For those who aren't familiar, who think that arts means going TO a play or seeing paintings on the wall, what does it mean to the economy of Arizona?

Brenda Sperduti:
Well, we're talking about arts and culture and the impact -- it's interesting, we've got many studies we've seen. One shows there are 50,000 jobs that are art-related in the state of Arizona. And in addition, there are 12,000 businesses that are arts-related businesses in Arizona and most of those are small businesses and they generate quite a business to the state. In fact, the city of Phoenix alone, arts organizations generate $40 million in tax income for the state.

Ted Simons:
With that in mind, there is some talk, maybe an idea of a dedicated tax, 1/10 of a cent sales tax for the arts. Is that feasible at all?

Brenda Sperduti:
I do believe that most people understand that the arts contribute to our economic vitality. They're really a great contributor to the state overall as mentioned in revenues. I believe that a dedicated funding source for the arts is the way to go. I do believe we'll be advocating for expanding resources for the arts over the years, because as the state talks about diversifying industry, not relying on growth and development as much, it would make so much sense to invest in the arts. The arts really bring so much back to the state economically.

Ted Simons:
And yet others will say it makes sense in these troubled times you've got to have the money for education, the money for services. Arts is just going to have to take a back seat. How do you respond?

Brenda Sperduti:
The arts is a big part of our community and it's a part of business, it's a part of healthcare, education. The arts really give us a sense of being. A sense of who we are. And it's so important that a community, a state, invest in this part of their economy. The arts industry. It really does add a lot. Yes, we're right there with everybody else taking cuts and absorbing and doing our best to cut expenses in these difficult times but as the economy turns around, there should be just as much investment in the arts and arts industry. Because it will help every part of the state.

Ted Simons:
Is the message getting across at the legislature or do you think they've got more important fish to fry right now?

Brenda Sperduti:
Well, they have a lot of fish to fly right now, certainly, at the legislature, but they're listening to us. Our organization, Arizona citizens action for the arts is a grassroots advocacy organization and we're building relationship with the elected officials and continue to do that and they are listening and we are very optimistic.

Ted Simons:
All right. Very good. Thanks for joining us tonight. Good to see you.

Brenda Sperduti:
It's a pleasure.

Swine Flu and West Nile Virus

  |   Video
  • The state has had its first case of West Nile Virus and officials are preparing for a possible new outbreak of the Swine Flu. Dr. Karen Lewis of the Arizona Department of Health Services will give us an update.
Guests:
  • Dr. Karen Lewis - Arizona Department of Health Services
Category: Medical/Health

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Arizona already has its first case of West Nile virus of the year. Last year, Arizona had 114 cases of West Nile with seven resulting in death. Also of concern -- the swine flu. It's expected to make a comeback, possibly stronger than before. Last flu season there were 6,071 cases of influenza in Arizona. Swine flu made up 762 of those cases. Officials are preparing for a stronger H1N1 flu. Here to talk about that and the West Nile virus is Dr. Karen Lewis, medical director for immunizations at the Arizona Department of Health. Good to have you here on "Horizon."

Karen Lewis:
Glad to be here.

Ted Simons:
Did the flu season ever end in Arizona?

Karen Lewis:
It's been tremendously long. Usually the last six to eight weeks, it's been over four months so far.

Ted Simons:
Do you think it's going to be die out?

Karen Lewis:
It's slowing in the summer, typically, but since it's a brand new virus that's circulating, it's going to come back this fall and be severe.

Ted Simons:
As far as the new cases, most if not all are the new H1N1, the swine flu?

Karen Lewis:
Exactly, they've been the predominant strain.

Ted Simons:
Who is getting sick?

Karen Lewis:
Mainly the younger people. 90% are under 50 years of age.

Ted Simons:
Surprising?

Karen Lewis:
A little bit. We expected older people to be just as susceptible but it may be that they were infected with a swine flu 50 years ago.

Ted Simons:
Interesting.

Karen Lewis:
And so have some residual immunity.

Ted Simons:
The swine flu is new to us, but not all that new.

Karen Lewis:
The swine -- the bad pandemic flu we had in 1918 was a swine flu and it actually circulated until about 1957 and then disappeared.

Ted Simons:
Very interesting. And I'm guessing that most people aren't reported. The vast majority.

Karen Lewis:
672 had in Arizona, just the tip of the iceberg. The U.S., they estimate a million people have been infected so far.

Ted Simons:
What does this say about fall and winter, the regular flu season?

Karen Lewis:
Most people are going to be susceptible. 20%, 30% more may come down with the new swine flu.

Ted Simons:
We've had reports that one in four could get sick. Three times the usual cases. You see that as well, huh?

Karen Lewis:
Absolutely. Influenza is highly contagious, it's important to prepare this fall and winter.

Ted Simons:
How is the state preparing this fall and winter?

Karen Lewis:
We're planning on how to distribute the vaccine when it it's available and working with hospitals about surge capacity and getting the message out for people to prepare personally and business for what to do if people get sick.

Ted Simons:
Talk more about those contingency plans. That's important -- that's a high number of folks getting sick and if they're all getting sick at the same time, you better have plan B ready, huh?

Karen Lewis:
Influenza isn't just a cough. Its muscle aches and coughing. Can't get out of bed for three to four days and you should stay home for a week. If you can't do -- if you can't work for a week or your child can't go to daycare or school, you need plans.

Ted Simons:
Is the new swine flu version, the H1N1, is it worse in terms of the regular flu?

Karen Lewis:
In terms the death rate, about the same. The regular flu about 36,000 a year die and a quarter of a million hospitalized.

Ted Simons:
Are there mutation concerns with the swine flu?

Karen Lewis:
Influenza as it replicates is always mutating a little bit and that's why every year you need a new flu shot. We're watching the southern hemisphere very closely because it's their winter to see if there's any change. So far, doesn't seem to be any difference.

Ted Simons:
Vaccinations, first, will there be something that addresses swine flu as we know it available in time?

Karen Lewis:
The government is working very hard. The federal government and five different manufacturers are working on it. It's expected to have vaccine potentially for everybody in the United States who wants to get it.

Ted Simons:
Time frame on that?

Karen Lewis:
The earliest, probably November, December.

Ted Simons:
Cutting it close, isn't it?

Karen Lewis:
It is, because we may see more cases come September and October, once kids go back to school.

Ted Simons:
That's the swine flu. Will there be a different vaccine or two needed for the regular flu?

Karen Lewis:
They started working on that six months ago. We're encouraging everybody to get the seasonal influenza so doctors don't have to deal with sick people with that, as well as the regular H1N1 vaccine.

Ted Simons:
Is there going to be enough of the regular available?

Karen Lewis:
We should have ample supply. 120 million doses or more. Unfortunately, most people don't get the regular seasonal influenza. People at high risk, the elderly, pregnant women, children, chronic medical problems, all of those people need it, but even healthy people benefit from the seasonal flu shot.

Ted Simons:
This fall, you're going to have the quote/unquote regular flu flying around, the swine flu flying around. If you don't get any vaccinations whatsoever, the olds aren't good, are they?

Karen Lewis:
The flu shot is the best thing you can do every winter to stay healthy.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about west Nile quickly. One case?

Karen Lewis:
One case.

Ted Simons:
Where was it?

Karen Lewis:
I actually don't know.

Ted Simons:
Ok.

Karen Lewis:
Number wise, probably Maricopa County.

Ted Simons:
With that in mind, I ask that because are there areas of the state, areas of Maricopa County you should try to avoid if you want to avoid West Nile virus?

Karen Lewis:
What you want to do is make sure the area around your home does not have standing water. If you have a bowl with water and a toy that has water for more than a few days, mosquitoes can grow and infect you.

Ted Simons:
Staying away from mosquitoes?

Karen Lewis:
Exactly, they like to bite from dawn to dust. If you are going outside, wear mosquito repellant and long pants.

Ted Simons:
As far as swine flu and the flu season is concerned, it's going to be a tough one, isn't it?

Karen Lewis:
It's tough. Listen to public health. Get your shots and wash your hands and stay away from sick people and stay home if you're sick.

Ted Simons:
Thank you for joining us, we appreciate it.

Karen Lewis:
Thank you.

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