Additional Support for Alaska’s Only Psychiatric Hospital Will Improve Safety and Health Outcomes

Juneau – Earlier today, the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Adam Crum, announced that he was taking over the day to day management of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) in Anchorage, which is Alaska’s only psychiatric hospital. Commissioner Crum has contracted with a private health care company to provide administrative support and leadership for the hospital.

“Clearly, something had to be done at API because staff and patients are in jeopardy. I am cautiously optimistic that the short-term contract announced today will bring resources to help turn around at API,” said Representative Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), who is the most recent Chair of the Health and Social Services Committee in the Alaska House of Representatives. “While a contract for short-term support is a good start, nothing will replace a real investment in the personnel needed to safely operate API. I look forward to continuing to work with other legislators to provide diligent oversight of API. I hope the Dunleavy administration will accept the necessity of additional funding for behavioral health treatment in Anchorage and throughout Alaska to address our growing safety crisis both at API and in communities across the state.”

State law allows the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services to assume management of a licensed health care facility when the health, safety, or welfare of patients is in danger. In recent years, staffing shortages and overcrowding at API has resulted in numerous instances where the safety of both patients and staff have been placed in jeopardy.

“I look forward to a full briefing from the department on this decision. It seems like a reasonable first step to take to address the serious health and public safety concerns at API,” said Rep. Matt Claman, who is the most recent Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. “Moving forward, my colleagues and I will insist on full transparency to ensure that there is real progress towards improving the daily operations at API. We will work closely with the Commissioner and his team to identify additional funding and resources to improve the situation at our only psychiatric hospital. Many Alaskans need urgent mental health care, and they deserve a facility and staff that can meet those needs safely and professionally.”

Both Reps. Claman and Spohnholz are urging Governor Dunleavy to protect the limited number of behavioral health services in Alaska from cuts in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal expected next week. They are also calling on the Dunleavy administration to keep in place Medicaid expansion in Alaska. 

For more information, please contact Alaska House Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.