Opinion: The Alaska Psychiatric Institute has made great strides in improving mental health services

by Kim Kobol

Has been updated: 1 1 hour ago release date: 1 1 hour ago

An August 5 ADN editorial, “The Dangers of Neglecting Mental Health Needs in Alaska,” highlighted the lack of treatment options for Alaskans with severe mental health problems.

The problem is real and deserves attention.

This is not unique to Alaska. Just over a month ago, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek his Mercy called youth mental health “the defining public health challenge of our time” at a roundtable here in Anchorage. And more than 150 million people live in federally designated mental health professional shortage areas, according to the Association of Medical Colleges of America.

However, the editorial board’s article paints a one-sided image of Alaska’s mental health system and unfairly denies the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) about broader and more complex community problems that no single hospital can solve. taking responsibility. The editorial board has not contacted the Department of Family and Community Services about how API is currently providing patient care compared to 2018.

Today’s API is not the same hospital as it was in 2018. In recent years it has made great strides. for example:

Bed capacity and utilization: A complex reality in mental health care is the variety of facilities and services. We had 20 beds in April 2018 and now we have 77. This year, API increased the number of beds available to 80 beds. Hospitals shouldn’t and shouldn’t be full all the time, especially in mental health settings. Flexibility is essential in dealing with the unpredictable nature of the mental health crisis and ensuring that each patient receives individualized care.

Oversight of Medicare and Medicaid Service Centers (CMS): After 2021, API will not maintain any citations from CMS, reflecting its high standards of care and compliance with federal regulations.

Specialized Unit Success: In 2021, API will reopen its 10-bed Chilkat youth unit. By opening a separate specialty ward, API has reduced staff violence against patients by 80%. Both are testament to the Institute’s innovative approach to care. Ongoing coaching and ongoing training are also in place. Such targeted solutions are at the forefront of modern mental health care.

New program: This year, API is developing two new criminal forensic remediation programs. Working with the Department of Corrections, prison-based remediation will be established for the most violent individuals in custody. An outpatient recovery program is established for court-bailed minor offenders with no history of violence.

Operating organization: A key change for API was the establishment of a governing body in 2019. The governing body incorporates stakeholders inside and outside the state system and provides a mechanism of accountability for hospitals. Meetings of the Governing Body are publicly notified and open to public participation, providing a very high level of transparency. APIs provide governing body operational data and quality metrics to enable hospitals to continuously improve patient care and work environments, as well as patient and staff safety.

Stable leadership: The pandemic has caused unprecedented turnover and economic turmoil in the healthcare industry. Nonetheless, over the past three years, API has maintained a stable leadership, employed by the country, and has been able to guide clear direction, create a unified vision, and boost staff morale. This continuity is critical in healthcare organizations where consistent shared policy and direction leads to improved patient outcomes.

Five-year strategic plan: In 2023, API has embarked on a comprehensive five-year strategic plan with stakeholders. The plan addresses specific challenges mentioned in editorials, including treatment programs, bed expansion needs, telemedicine, and staff turnover. The results are already evident, with staff retention increasing from his 59% in 2018 to 72% in 2022, demonstrating a positive working environment and a stable environment for patients.

While APIs are an important part of the mental health system, it’s important to recognize that they can’t solve every state problem. We need the Alaska Court System, the Alaska State Mental Health Trust, Congress, local government, law enforcement, social services, mental health providers, and other community stakeholders to create a more comprehensive solution. is.

We do not want to return to the days when institutionalization was the only option for Alaskans with behavioral health problems.

I’m proud of the positive progress API has made over the last three years. Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s vision through Executive Order 121 to reorganize the Department of Health and Social Services will allow the Department of Family and Community Services to prioritize his API and other divisions. But lasting solutions include a nuanced understanding of state-specific challenges and recognition of the successes that can be achieved by working together in both the public and private sectors to build a more effective and compassionate mental health system in Alaska. It is necessary.

Kim Kobol He is director of the Alaska Department of Family and Social Services, which oversees the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.

The views expressed here are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a wide range of perspectives.To submit your work for consideration, please send an email Commentary(at)adn.com. Please send posts of less than 200 words to: Letters@adn.com or Click here to submit from any web browser.Read all guidelines for letters and comments here.

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