New Mental Health Treatment Center Opens in Fairbanks | Local News

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A new residential mental health treatment center will open in late fall in Fairbanks, the first of its kind in the region.

“We have the hospital, then we have outpatient care – health and community counseling centers – but there’s nothing in between,” said Sarah Koogle, adult clinical director at Alaska Behavioral Health. “This residential center will help bridge the gap in our community when it comes to mental health care. “

Koogle said the hospital accepts people with acute mental health crises and discharges them when they feel better, but they may still need “that extra support.”

“When someone comes out of a hospital and has been there for two weeks or more, it usually means they have a lot going on in their life,” Koogle said.

The new treatment center – scheduled to open in November on Hilton Avenue near the Regal Goldstream & IMAX theater – will admit adults with severe mental illness. Each client will have a personalized care plan based on their needs, which could include medication administration, individual and group therapy, and skill development, said Christine Alvarez, Clinical Director of Adult Services at Alaska. Behavioral Health.

“So true, [our client is] someone who cannot be kept in the community because their health is in danger and they have not responded to outpatient treatment, ”Alvarez said.

For example, if a person has been ‘kicked out of their place more often due to inappropriate social interactions’, staff at the new center could help them’ develop life skills and social skills to restore their functioning and life. ‘help them understand how to regulate their emotions and anger. “

The center will accept people for up to 90 days, “but it’s possible that someone will stay there longer or much less than that,” Alvarez said. Every 90 days, staff would submit a service authorization to justify the medical necessity.

After receiving treatment, clients may move to an assisted living facility and come to the clinic for care or obtain an apartment and start using outpatient services.

“This is going to be a really, really important thing specifically for the Fairbanks community,” Alvarez said.

Prior to last spring, Alaska had a service called Recipient Support Services provided to people with a mental health diagnosis, violent hallucinations, or a history of violence, Alvarez explained. The team monitored clients in the assisted living facilities so that they did not harm themselves or anyone else, while remaining in the community. Now that the program is gone, residents of Fairbanks must travel to Anchorage or even other states to receive a higher standard of care outside of their community.

Having the treatment center in Fairbanks will help people get the necessary support at the local level so that once released from the hospital, they can stay in a community in which they have been involved.

While Fairbanks is expected to need around 35 beds, the center will have around 10 at this time.

“We kind of wanted to open it up slowly and then see how the community reacts,” Alvarez said.

To help the center open its doors, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority awarded Alaska Behavioral Health $ 300,000 at the end of last month. The Trust is a Crown corporation that supports organizations serving Alaskans with mental illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders.

The Trust award will help the center cover start-up costs, such as hiring employees, said Steve Williams, chief operating officer of the Trust.

So far, the plan is to have a clinician at the center at all times and 10 to 15 mental health technicians who will take care of day-to-day activities with clients, Koogle said.

“We also want to make sure that we have someone there when a client has passed the program and is now ready to be integrated into the community,” Koogle said. “We want to make sure that we have a really solid exit plan and that we prepare them for success once they leave.”

Despite local and national staff shortages, the center began to receive a steady stream of applicants as soon as it started advertising.

“I think one of the reasons this is generating interest is that everyone who works in this field – mental health or behavioral health in Fairbanks – knows that it is such a crucial component. that the community needs, ”Koogle said.

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