Alaska’s behavioral health system Is fragmented and increasingly stressed. Without appropriate behavioral health care in community-based or inpatient treatment settings, patients in crisis are kept in emergency departments or non-psychiatric inpatient units or discharged home without a referral to the treatment they need.
While this is a serious and urgent problem across the country, Alaska’s overall lack of behavioral health services across the continuum of care— from crisis stabilization as an alternative to the ED, to inpatient psychiatric treatment beds, to community based (outpatient) behavioral health services for non-emergency care and ongoing maintenance to avoid another crisis—compounds this problem significantly and has resulted in increasing strain on emergency departments in particular.
Resources & Links:
Acute Behavioral Health Improvement Project (2019)
AHHA's work on behavioral health (BH) issues has been ongoing over the last several years and has coalesced around the Emergency Department boarding challenge faced by our member hospitals.
In early 2018, AHHA received funding from The Mental Health Trust Authority (AMHTA) to request funding for the Acute Behavioral Health Improvement Project to develop a roadmap for initiatives and infrastructure to support the adult behavioral care continuum.
A total of 63 individuals participated in the workgroup meetings from 31 organizations that included federal and state employees from various departments, five community partners, and 21 hospitals across the state of Alaska.
The final report for this project was completed in April of 2019 and ASHNHA developed a workplan based on recommendations and strategies identified through the project.
In early November 2021, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority awarded AHHA a grant of $95,000 to support Alaska's Adolescent Mental Health Continuum project, a new initiative led by
AHHA to convene members and key stakeholders in addressing the challenges and unmet needs for adolescent care in Alaska.
An unprecedented number of health care professionals experience burnout, depression and other forms of distress, and are at in increased risk for suicide as compared to the general population. Over the past three years, "fear of exposure to COVID infection and transmission, staff shortages, inadequate personal protective equipment, and work stress have added an extra burden to an already stressful lifestyle."
- Suicide in Healthcare Workers: Determinants, Challenges, and the Impact of COVID-19.
Health care professionals who take care of their mental health are better able to care for patients and resist the effects of burnout, stress, and depression. We've gathered some resources for health care professionals and facilities - tools for finding and providing support, and strategies for creating work environments that prioritize the well-being of healthcare workers.
> Visit the Workforce Wellness Page
ASHNHA strongly supports adding crisis services to the behavioral health continuum of care available in Alaska. One option that is currently a focus of implementation by the Mental Health Trust is the Crisis Now model of care.
This model includes three components to ensure an appropriate level of care in a timely manner for anyone in crisis:
Crisis call center staffed by specialists that can support and stabilize individuals over the phone.
24/7 Mobile Crisis Teams meet people where they are and working to resolve crises.
Crisis Stabilization Locations offering ‘no wrong door’ to anyone needing crisis services.
The consultation report for recommendations on implementing this model in Alaska was completed by RI International for the Mental Health Trust on December 27, 2019.