Letter: Should psychiatric institutes be privatized?

The Department of Health and Social Services in partnership with the Mental Health Trust Authority are studying the feasibility of privatizing the operations of state-run Alaska Psychiatric Institute.

Should the state-run Alaska Psychiatric Institute be privatized? The answer to the question will affect thousands of individuals with a disability. The internet has numerous reports concerning the privatization of state-run psychiatric hospitals, including a investigative report that appeared in the Texas Observer that in part stated, “Privatization — a move that will likely shield the (psychiatric) hospital from the kind of scrutiny that prompted reform and could even inhibit state oversight.”

It would be a mistake for Alaska as a young state to let a private corporation manage Alaska Psychiatric Institute. There is a long list of improved rights that the disabled with a mental illness and those with a cognitive impairment need, but the disabled are never going to get improved rights from a private psychiatric facility run by a corporation. As a state we have an obligation to continually improve rights and quality of care for the disabled; improving rights is not going to happen if we turn our conscience over to a private corporation.

The Alaska Psychiatric Institute has an annual budget of approximately $33 million and treats about 1,500 patients.

Faith Myers and Dorrance Collins,

Mental health advocates, Anchorage