"I find it unconscionable that over 300 of our children are currently receiving inpatient mental health care outside of Alaska because the State has failed to create local treatment options."
- Gov. Murkowski
"An Act relating to inpatient psychiatric services for persons who are under 21 years of age and are either eligible for medical assistance or are in the custody of the Department of Health and Social Services."
Senate bill 157 requires the Department of Health and Social Services to use in state facilities, where available, for the psychiatric treatment of eligible persons. Currently, there are over three hundred and fifty Alaskan children in residential treatment centers out of state. Removal from home state care reduces the involvement of the child's family and the community providers in the child's treatment, thus preventing the improvement of the child's quality of life and care. Out of state treatment is also more expensive and extensive than in state treatment.
The need for in-state psychiatric facilities has been widely recognized for many years. Governor Murkowski has stated, "I find it unconscionable that over 300 of our children are currently receiving inpatient mental health care outside of Alaska because the State has failed to create local treatment options. How can one provide appropriate mental health services to a child who has been taken out of their community and forced to live thousands of miles away from loved ones?" Last session the legislature expressed concern for this problem by passing Senate Concurrent Resolution 21 that requested the Governor to direct the Department of Health and Social Services to work toward providing services and facilities for the treatment of severely emotionally disturbed children in-state. Senate Bill 157 will encourage the implementation of SCR 21 by removing the possibility for out-of state placement when adequate services, according to the child' diagnosis and need, are available in Alaska.
The key provisions are:
The department will not grant assistance or pay for inpatient psychiatric services for persons under 21 years old in an out-of-state facility, unless adequate service is unavailable in the state.
The department will evaluate the types of services available in the state and subsequently transfer persons under age 21 to the state when the service becomes available, unless the transfer would be detrimental to the person's health, therapeutic relationship, or clinical need.
Passage of this legislation will give reassurance to those persons who want to build facilities to fill this need that the State of Alaska wants and needs these services provided in state. This will improve the quality of care and lead to long-term success of the child's treatment, while encouraging the construction of local residential treatment facilities and institutional jobs, without the consequence of diverting jobs out of Alaska.
I request your support and passage of Senate Bill 157.