Mercy Maricopa wins innovation awards

The Institute for Medicaid Innovation (IMI) recognized Mercy Maricopa for innovative behavioral health programs at the Medicaid Health Plan Association (MHPA) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.


One of the challenges facing some individuals designated with a serious mental illness, or SMI, is staying out of the justice system. Often people with a SMI designation end up in jail as a result of their symptoms, which is not the best course of treatment to help them live a healthy, productive life. Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care (Mercy Maricopa) has developed a successful program that makes a tremendous difference in the lives of people living with SMI who have also become involved with the justice system.

Today, that program was recognized as a success at the national level. Mercy Maricopa won two Best Practice awards from the Institute for Medicaid Innovation (IMI) at MHPA17, the annual conference of the Medicaid Health Plan Association. Mercy Maricopa won Most Innovative Best Practice and the Innovation in Behavioral Health awards from IMI, for its work with Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) teams. FACT teams provide wraparound services and support to people living with SMI who find themselves arrested or incarcerated. Mercy Maricopa collaborates on this program with Community Bridges, Inc.

The FACT team program has resulted in impressive outcomes for members with SMI designations:

  • 19% decrease in homelessness
  • 84% increase in visits to medical providers
  • 76% decrease in incarcerations
  • 31% decrease in psychiatric hospitalizations
  • 18% decrease in emergency department utilization

“This program has done so much good for our members, who truly need this type of help,” said Blythe FitzHarris, Chief Clinical Officer, Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care. “Putting someone in jail because of their mental health symptoms is counter-productive. Getting them into treatment, stable housing and other services is what steers them toward recovery, and it ultimately results in healthier communities for all of us.”

FACT teams are comprised of 13 people who provide specific types of assistance to the member, depending on their needs. Individuals who make up the FACT team include:

  • Clinical coordinator
  • Psychiatrist
  • Primary care physician
  • Substance abuse specialist
  • Registered nurses
  • Assertive Community Treatment specialist
  • Justice system specialist
  • Employment specialist
  • Independent living specialist
  • Peer support specialist
  • Housing specialist
  • Rehabilitation Specialist
  • Program assistant

Members assigned to a FACT team have 24/7 access to FACT team members to help them build stability, stay in treatment and move toward recovery.

About Mercy Care Plan and Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care

Mercy Care Plan and Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care are non-profit health plans serving AHCCCS members throughout Arizona. Owned by Dignity Health and Ascension Health, Mercy Care Plan has served Medicaid members since 1985. Mercy Care Plan serves families, children, seniors, and people with physical and developmental/cognitive disabilities.

Mercy Care Plan is also an owner of Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care, the Regional Behavioral Health Authority in Maricopa County and the first RBHA in Arizona to offer integrated physical and behavioral health services to persons determined to have a serious mental illness. Mercy Maricopa manages the public behavioral health system in Maricopa County and parts of Pinal County. Mercy Maricopa contracts with a wide network of community providers that serve members and give them the support they need to reach their recovery goals.