ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska state officials have released a court-ordered plan detailing how the state expects to keep psychiatric patients from being warehoused in hospitals and jails before being transferred to treatment centers.
The state Department of Health and Social Services released the 30-page plan, which includes changing the way people on the Alaska Psychiatric Institute waitlist are prioritized for admission, Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.
The plan also includes longer-term goals for transforming the state’s dysfunctional mental health system, department officials said.
The plan stems from a 2018 lawsuit by the Disability Law Center and the Alaska Public Defender Agency over the practice of holding people forced into psychiatric treatment in jail cells and emergency rooms because of a continuing waitlist for beds, officials said.
The Alaska Psychiatric Institute has been operating under its 80-bed capacity despite the waitlist, court officials said.
Anchorage Superior Court Judge William Morse ruled in October that the practice caused “irreparable harm” and ordered the state to explain how it would put an end to the practice.
The 90-day plan includes hiring a statewide coordinator to ensure patients are appropriately and quickly placed, making it possible for mental health workers to visit hospitals to do required evaluations and order the waitlist for a spot by priority so the sickest patients could get treatment sooner, department officials said.
The report doesn’t commit to the more drastic changes to the system, critics said.
A portion of the report is devoted to “Crisis Now,” an approach that would create a statewide call line system, non-hospital crisis stabilization centers and response teams of mental health professionals, but there is not much commitment to the approach, critics said.
A status hearing in the case is scheduled for next week where Morse can respond to the state's plan, officials said.