Letter: Cutting state's behavioral health budget is a travesty

House Bill 66 is a travesty. At this time in the United States, it is almost unimaginable that the Legislature would even consider cutting $8.3 million to the behavioral health budget. Alaska has the dubious distinction of being the state with the highest rates of, suicide, domestic violence and substance abuse. The U.S. has fought hard for mental health parity and destigmatization of those who suffer with a mental illness. Therefore, it is important to consider that an alternative to mental health treatment is incarceration.

Alaska has been the pioneer in Therapeutic Courts, which have been instrumental into getting treatment for those who may have continued to cycle “in and out” of the correctional system. It is the evolution of justice and treatment working collaboratively to resolve these complex social and personal issues that has eased the way for those needing assistance. 

I implore the Legislature to consider the negative consequences of these costs as it costs far more to incarcerate than rehabilitate.

— Tina Walsh-Morgan