Governor Doug Ducey today announced a $1 million investment in Special Olympics Arizona to improve the lives of Arizonans with intellectual disabilities.
The investment will expand the Healthy Athletes program, which provides critical services including general and mental health, physical therapy, dental health and vision. The funds are allocated from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“Sports offer significant benefits to those who play, especially to those with disabilities,” said Governor Ducey at the groundbreaking of Special Olympics Arizona’s new facility in Goodyear. “Sports help participants learn critical team-building skills, improve their physical health and experience the joys of competition. Our partnership with Special Olympics Arizona will give more Arizonans the opportunity to not only compete in sports, but access critical health services.”
The funding will ensure health screenings for 1,000 athletes, provide health education to another 1,500 students; and expand access to mental health providers, screenings and education.
“Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a higher prevalence of adverse health conditions and are more likely to have unidentified and untreated health issues. They also have less access to health care services and health promotion programs, experience greater rates of mental health challenges and bullying, and struggle to live independently,” said Jamie Heckerman, President and CEO of Special Olympics Arizona. “We can’t thank Governor Ducey and the State of Arizona enough for this generous gift that will provide more inclusive health programs and assist so many more individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to get proper health care and treatment to help lead a better quality of life.”
The expanded program will also provide hands-on provider training and experience for 300 health care students and professionals to develop the skills needed to care for Arizonans with disabilities.
The skilled-based training provided through the Healthy Athletes Program has been effective in upskilling Arizona’s health care workforce.
The opening of the new Special Olympics Arizona facility will give more underserved Arizonans the opportunity to compete in sports and access to other critical resources that aren’t widely available to them.
Special Olympics Arizona serves more than 21,400 athletes with intellectual disabilities, and more than 24,700 volunteers team up with staff to host Special Olympics programs.