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The ‘Crisis Now’ Project: Fairbanks receives grants for mental health crisis response

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 4:13 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority recently awarded grants totaling more than $930,000 to the Fairbanks community.

The goal is to improve the area’s response to mental health crises.

Three agencies received the grants. According to Katie Baldwin-Johnson, Senior Program Officer with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, these agencies are “The Bridge, which will support the peer-support component of the mobile crisis team; Alaska Behavioral Health, which will provide the mental health professional clinicians to the team; and it’s a partnership with the city and the fire department.”

These entities are working to develop a mobile crisis response team to be on-scene when someone reports a mental health crisis.

Michael Sanders, Fairbanks Housing and Homeless Coordinator, said, “It may be appropriate for the mobile crisis team to respond by themselves, depending on the situation.”

He added, “Crisis Now is going to be a game changer in Fairbanks. It’s something that we definitely need in this town. It gives folks more access to behavioral health services.”

This team is designed to reduce the need for law enforcement in these situations.

“Law enforcement, while they work very hard at their training in terms of responding and understanding mental health symptoms and situations, that’s not their primary role,” Baldwin-Johnson said. “We do not want people that are suffering sitting in emergency room departments or in the back of a police car because there are not other options.”

The plan is to eventually have a place where those in crisis can go that’s not a hospital. Sanders said, “It’s a facility that’s divided up in half. Half of it will be for 23-hour stabilization. Then if they need longer-term services, they’ll be able to stay at the same facility and get more following care.”

The team will include a clinician and a peer support specialist.

Linda Setterberg, Operations Director with The Bridge, described peer support. “It’s someone that’s been there, right? That’s experienced, either for themselves or a family member, and brings that real experience that says ‘No, you need to engage, and help, and help people write their own recovery plan.’”

The mobile crisis response team is expected to begin operation around August.

More information about the work being done to improve mental health crisis response can be found here.

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