It is not a secret that the mental health system is in crisis in Alaska, as it is much elsewhere in the U.S. Though the Alaska Psychiatric Institute is often the focus of criticism, it’s only the most visible agency statewide undergoing a severe crisis in mental health services.
As Director of Psychiatry at API, I have worked hard with many others to sustain a system that at this point appears unsustainable unless adequate support and funding is forthcoming from the Dunleavy administration.
I am also an exempt employee of the state of Alaska, but I will not be offering my resignation. Whereas it might seem like a simple matter to offer my resignation with the likelihood of being retained, this symbolic gesture of deference doesn’t settle well with me.
I can’t say I’m in favor of further cuts and hiring freezes, because that’s not what’s needed at API at this time, and that’s the only plan I’ve heard so far. If API is not allowed to move forward with plans already in place, the crisis will continue or get worse. Politics have already cut deeply into our ability to care for the mentally ill.
The state of Alaska hired me for my expertise, not my political allegiance. My moral allegiance is to the mentally ill and the staff who care for them. There has been progress, but not nearly enough and not fast enough, with the state often getting in its own way. I would like to continue as Director of Psychiatry at API because I believe there are feasible and fiscally responsible ways improve API and our state mental health system, but I would also like to know first if the incoming administration is invested in making this happen.
Anthony Blanford, M.D.
Director of Psychiatry, Alaska Psychiatric Institute
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