News Article Details

Lawmakers focused on education but was it enough?

Maricopa Monitor - 5/16/2017

CASA GRANDE -- Life is different for one area family this Mother's Day.

As recently as four months ago, Michelle Vinson and her two children, Zachary and Zoe, were homeless.

She was addicted to methamphetamine and heroin, her husband was in and out of jail, and Vinson was adjusting to the fact that her youngest child had received a preliminary autism diagnosis.

"Last year, Mother's Day was just another day to worry about how I was going to get drugs and feeling like I had failed my children," Vinson said.

Things are different now.

Vinson is a resident of Home of Hope, a 12-month, faith-based addiction recovery program. She lives at the facility in Casa Grande with Zachary and Zoe.

She's taking parenting classes and learning how to be a mom to a special needs child.

"I'm so excited about parenting now," she said.

Mother's Day is a special holiday at Home of Hope, said the Rev. Teresa Logue, facility director.

Women recovering from drug or alcohol addiction often struggle with feelings of shame and guilt, she said.

"Struggling with addiction and neglecting children often goes hand-in-hand," Logue said. "For a lot of women, when they arrive here, it's the first time they're there for their kids."

Run by Teen Challenge of Arizona, Home of Hope operates under a "love them back to life" philosophy.

The program provides an atmosphere of healing and the tools and education necessary to help these women overcome addictions, restore family relationships, obtain employment and become productive members of the community.

"The women in the program often say, 'there's something wrong with me,'" Logue said. "We teach them that there might be something wrong with their actions, but not with them."

When Vinson arrived at Home of Hope, she had lost her home and was living on the streets. Zachary was feeling pain and loss over losing his home and Zoe, who is non-verbal, expressed her anger by banging her head.

"On the streets, we did what we had to do to survive and I didn't know how to deal with Zoe's autism. She was banging her head a lot," Vinson said.

Vinson's slide into drug addiction and homelessness had been gradual. She lived much of her childhood in Scottsdale.

When she was a teen, she was prescribed pain medication for back pain. She became addicted but later went through a recovery program. She stopped using drugs, met her husband and started a family. For a few years, they had a nice home in Maricopa.

She was eight months pregnant with Zoe when her father committed suicide. She was given a prescription for vicodin and before long, was addicted again.

"This time I wasn't taking it for physical pain. I was taking it because my heart hurt and it hurt all the time," she said.

Her husband also started using drugs. As the couple's drug use escalated from pain pills to heroin and then methamphetamine, the family went from having a nice home to living in a small apartment in Phoenix. Eventually, they became homeless.

"I felt I had completely failed. My husband would get picked up for warrants and I'd be sleeping under a bush alone with my children," Vinson said.

A friend who had graduated from Home of Hope found her living on the streets and took her to tour the facility.

"It seemed like an answer to my prayers," she said. "But there was a part of me that didn't want to come. I had turned away from God a long time ago."

As the recovery process began, Vinson said guilt set in. She still struggles with it.

"I felt Zoe's autism was my fault. I thought I had caused it," she said. "I would sit and cry and cry."

Coming to terms with her past, taking parenting classes and working with the childcare staff at Home of Hope has changed her outlook.

"Zoe is a special child and I know now that God has trusted me with this very special child," she said.

Zoe is still non-verbal, but Vinson and her son are learning sign language. Zoe is enrolled in speech therapy.

"The director of child care helps me," Vinson said. "At first I didn't know where to start with taking care of Zoe's needs."

As Vinson celebrates Mother's Day this year, she said she's still learning to balance the needs of her children with her own. Her husband is also getting the help he needs.

She hopes her story encourages others. She wants to become an advocate for disabled children and has attended several conferences. She hopes to visit other Teen Challenge facilities to share her story.

"I want to bring hope to other mothers struggling with these issues," she said.

To learn more about Home of Hope or to sponsor a woman in recovery, visit

At the other extreme, another law is designed to protect health care providers and hospitals that refuse to participate in assisted suicide, euthanasia or mercy killing.

Current law already exempt health care providers from liability for failing to comply with a patient's request or doctor's order that violates the provider's conscience. But for said this will harm the ability of patients and families to work with doctors to decide when treatments simply prolong death.

Lawmakers did agree to reverse the decision two years ago limiting lifetime benefits for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families to just one year, making Arizona the stingiest in the country.

But the restoration was not complete. The legislation contains various provisions that would reduce benefits by half for a single violation of rules, including kids not attending school at least 90 percent of the time or failing to immunize a child.

Relatives who raise abused and neglected children will be able to get some state dollars to help care for them. And it will be a bit easier to qualify for food stamps, with lawmakers eliminating a requirement for "finger imaging,'' an anti-fraud provision added years ago that proved far more expensive to administer than the fraud it detected.

Economic development

Lawmakers both extended existing tax breaks and credits that were set to expire, expanded some of them and even created some new ones.

Some of these are aimed at major manufacturers, giving them additional incentives to do research and development in Arizona, with state taxpayers effectively reimbursing them for part of the cost. They also are getting new property tax breaks on the equipment they buy.

Proponents say that the foregone revenues are more than made up by the creation of new jobs, with those employees buying homes, spending money and paying taxes.

There also are more opportunities for "angel'' investors to get tax credits for putting money into small businesses. But lawmakers balked at a particular measure aimed at getting loans to companies in rural Arizona.

The package also contains a small break in individual income taxes, with the maximum additional cash in the pockets of individuals after two years being $4.54.

Lawmakers agreed to allow electronic billboards in the 40-mile area around Bullhead City, a measure pushed as promoting economic development. But there are concerns this will pave the way for exceptions other areas where such illuminated signs are now prohibited to protect the dark skies.

And legislators agreed to give businesses some protections against lawsuits for failing to comply with the Arizonans with Disabilities Act.

Grab bag

Of course, the session always includes what might seem to be things that no one thought was necessary of legislative action. But each measure has a constituency.For example, in the category of "who knew that was illegal,'' students attending public schools or summer camps now will be able to put on their own sunscreen without a note from home or a prescription.Arizona now has wulfenite as its official state mineral.Moving companies that say the cost has risen from the original estimate can't refuse to deliver household goods.Farmers will now be able to grow hemp for industrial uses if they get federal permission.The San Tan Valley can schedule a vote to incorporate.Foster children will be able to buy their own car insurance.Lawmakers did agree that students journalists should get First Amendment protections though the fate of that measure is up to Ducey. Ditto with legislation to exempt the profits on gold and silver U.S. coins from state capital gains taxes.But lawmakers decided that they really don't need to say that only people with wheelchairs can use the wider "van accessible'' handicapped parking places.And a proposal to ban teaching "social justice'' in schools proved to be a non-starter.

 
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