(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Lawmakers have chance to make good choice for psychiatric care

State has a 60-year history of making bad choices in care for disabled psychiatric patient.

Alaska has a 60-year history of making bad choices when providing care for disabled psychiatric patients. Through most of the 1960s, some disabled psychiatric patients were still being shipped to Oregon. In the 1980s, the Trust Authority’s hashtag was “Bring the children home” because hundreds of adolescents were still being sent out of state for psychiatric patient care.

In 2005, the new Alaska Psychiatric Institute opened its doors. The 80-bed hospital proved to be a poor design to treat acute care psychiatric patients. The supervising nurse at the time made the statement that the only unit that was designed correctly was the adolescent unit.

Around 2005, the old API, a 126 thousand square foot building and land was sold to Providence Hospital by the Mental Health Trust and the state. The building should have been remodeled to house hard-to-place psychiatric patients. As of now, the state is leaving these individuals on the streets or in jails.

The Legislature could make a good choice: There needs to be additions to House Bill 172 and Senate Bill 124 requiring that psychiatric facilities keep and share statistics of the number and type of patient complaints and injuries and the number and type of traumatic events experienced by patients and those statistics should be shared with the general public and the Legislature.

Dorrance Collins,


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