State seeks review of options for psychiatric facility

The facility has been under scrutiny from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

  • By Becky Bohrer Associated Press
  • Monday, August 5, 2019 8:54pm
  • News

JUNEAU — State health department officials want to take another look at options for running Alaska’s state-owned psychiatric facility, including privatization.

The request for proposals was released Monday, the same day Gov. Mike Dunleavy and department officials touted progress at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. The state Department of Health and Social Services has been under contract with Wellpath Recovery Solutions to stabilize the facility and take steps to bring it to full operation. The contract is set to run through 2019.

The facility has been under scrutiny from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which the state said found more than 80 deficiencies between July and December 2018.

State officials said Monday that the facility is now considered to be in good standing with federal requirements. The federal agency, in a report, said an unannounced visit last month found the facility to be in “substantial compliance.”

Dunleavy, speaking to reporters at the Anchorage facility, said the Alaska Psychiatric Institute was failing in its mission when he took office in December. He said things are moving in the right direction, citing as an example an increased number of patients who can be accepted due to additional staffing. But he said there remains room for “a lot of improvement.”

Health Commissioner Adam Crum said there is a demand nationally for psychiatric care providers and that hiring psychiatric nurses and psychiatric nurse assistants has been difficult.

Albert Wall, a deputy health commissioner, said the number of available beds has more than doubled over the last eight months. It remains below an 80-bed target.

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, co-chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee, said she hasn’t seen a concerted effort from the administration to fill positions at the facility. The Anchorage Democrat also said she sees no need to do another study.

The request for proposals seeks an analysis of privatization options, such as having an outside party assume hospital management and operations. Other areas the state wants studied include maintaining state ownership and operation but looking for more efficiencies or contracting for certain services. It also seeks analysis on whether and how the facility could remain exclusively state run.

The state has studied privatization before. A 2017 consultant’s report called the full privatization option it analyzed cost prohibitive.

Wall said a lot has changed since that report was written and it was determined that a fresh look was needed.

More in News

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Candidate Bill Elam waves signs on election day on Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voters take to the polls during Tuesday municipal election

Poll workers report low turnout across the central peninsula

Some of the pumpkins submitted to the pumpkin-decorating contest are seen here during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska, on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion file)
Kenai’s Fall Pumpkin Fest set for Saturday

The fun actually starts early, as a central element of the festival is a pumpkin decorating contest already underway

Aurora Borealis Charter School Art and Music Teacher Eleanor Van Sickle leads students in a performance of "Autumn Canon," a Hungarian song at a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meeting on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O'Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Student serenade

Aurora Borealis Charter School students sing at the assembly during the regular school board meeting on Monday

Bear 747, defending Fat Bear Week Champion, stands on the bank of the Brooks River in Katmai National Park, Alaska. The winner of a Thursday matchup between Bear 128 Grazer and Bear 151 Walker will meet 747 in Fat Bear Week competition on Saturday. (Photo courtesy C. Cravatta/National Park Service)
Survival of the fattest

Paunchy ursine competitors go head-to-head in annual Fat Bear Week

Soldotna Elementary School Principal Dr. Austin Stevenson walks amid natural gas pipes anchored to the outside of school on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
High costs stall work on school bond

A cost estimate for the reconstruction of Soldotna Elementary School came back $13.5 million over budget

(City of Seward)
Police standoff closes Seward Highway

Police say standoff was with ‘barricaded individual,’ not escaped inmate

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska not included in feds’ proposed 5-year oil and gas program

The plan includes a historically low number of proposed sales

A copy of "People, Paths, and Places: The Frontier History of Moose Pass, Alaska" stands in sunlight in Soldotna, Alaska, on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Moose Pass to receive award for community historical effort

“People, Paths, and Places: The Frontier History of Moose Pass, Alaska” was a collaboration among community members

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board Member Debbie Cary speaks during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. Cary also served on the borough’s reapportionment board. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
School board president receives award for meritorious service

Debbie Cary, of Ninilchik, is the Alaska Superintendent Association’s 2024 recipient of the Don MacKinnon Excellence in Education Award

Most Read