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April 26, 2019
A New Direction for the Alaska Psychiatric Institute
On Monday, after a lawsuit was filed, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services canceled the no-bid contract that turned over the long-term management of the state’s only psychiatric hospital to a private for-profit company. This was an important first step in deciding the future of this vital piece of Alaska’s healthcare infrastructure.
Nashville-based Wellpath was handed a controversial non-competitive, no-bid contract by the Dunleavy administration to manage the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API). Wellpath has a dubious track record in the mental health industry riddled with lawsuits and court cases for not properly caring for patients. The best option was to cancel the contract and start over.
From the very start, the decision to bring in Wellpath to manage API was mishandled. The decision to give a $43 million no-bid contract to a company with ties to a high-level Dunleavy administration official raised a lot of red flags. This warranted the higher level of oversight used by the members of the House Health and Social Services Committee, under the leadership of Reps. Ivy Spohnholz and Tiffany Zulkosky. As a result of their hard work and the concerns raised by the public, the flawed process used to hand out the no-bid contract was exposed.
The Department of Health and Social Services reports that Wellpath will remain onsite at API to manage the facility in a short-term role through the end of the year. The company has indicated that it will submit a bid for the long-term management contract. Reportedly, Providence Alaska Medical Center has also shown an interest in taking over management of API, which is running at less than half capacity due to a staffing shortage.
Two years ago, the Public Consulting Group delivered a report to the Alaska Legislature that found that continued state management is not only the most advantageous route for generating overall cost savings but that it also provides better care and avoids many of the risks involved in contracting out the management of the hospital. The next step in the process is for the Public Consulting Group to deliver another study to the state detailing the feasibility of privatizing the operations of API.
I am going to need some convincing before I am comfortable handing over the care of some of the most vulnerable people in Alaska to a for-profit company like Wellpath that has been sued thousands of times. API exists to care for Alaskans with mental health issues, not as a profit-generating column on a balance sheet for a company most of us had never heard of before this year.
Anchorage Citywide Cleanup Kickoff is Saturday
The effort to clean up after winter hits high gear next week with the annual Anchorage Citywide Cleanup. The Anchorage Chamber has sponsored this week-long cleanup effort for the last 51 years. The Citywide Cleanup Week kicks off Saturday. Please join your friends, family, and neighbors in picking up trash to help beautify Anchorage.
The First 100 Day in Photos
The Alaska House Majority made up of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.
Enjoying my public service.
Bernadette and our daughter Penelope visiting me in Juneau.
Going over ethics rules with colleagues on the House floor.
Giving a legislative update during a conference call.
1st day of session interviews.
Signing my oath of office.
Recording a podcast in my office.
Joining in a rally on the Capitol Steps.
Joining my friend Rep. Kopp for the annual Go Blue Friday Rally on the Capitol Steps.
I must have been saying something important.
Children are our future.
I’m here for you, so please keep in touch on matters important to you and your family!
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