Fairbanks adopts ‘Crisis Now’ model of mental health care

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 4:41 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The City of Fairbanks, along with local nonprofits, is working to change the way mental health crises are treated in the community.

These changes include adopting a Crisis Now model of response to mental health crises. Crisis Now is a model of response to these episodes in which a Mobile Crisis Response Team can take the place of an overburdened emergency team.

According to Christine Alvarez, Chief Clinical Officer of Adult Services with Alaska Behavioral Health in Fairbanks, this model is “going to change the way we do behavioral health in Fairbanks.

Traditionally, first responders in Fairbanks are called to respond to mental health crises that happen in the community. “What happens is, because they’re limited in their response, they continue to have individuals that are high utilizers of the system, so Crisis Now should be able to provide diversion so that individuals aren’t going to the hospital as much, aren’t going to jail as much, and instead, we are able to provide the services they need,” Alvarez said. “So it’ll be felt with EMS and the Fire Department, It’ll be felt with the police officers because we’ll be able to hopefully reduce the amount of calls that they are getting that are really inappropriate for them to respond to.”

She added, “If you don’t provide the right care at the right time, then oftentimes in the future escalation happens, and you have individuals that go to jail or go to the hospital because they’re experiencing a mental health crisis.”

Crisis Now has been implemented successfully in communities across the country.

Linda Setterberg, Operations Director with local nonprofit The Bridge said, “It’s really, like, helping the individual find the way forward with their recovery.”

Mobile Crisis Response Teams include a clinician and a peer support specialist, and that’s where The Bridge comes in.

During the summer, the nonprofit hired these peer support specialists. “They’re all people, of course, with lived experience, and so that’s what they really bring to the table is their own personal experiences with behavioral health crisis,” Setterberg said.

The Bridge initiated a soft start for the program on October 1st. “We’re not going 24/7 yet. The second thing is that we’re only going out in the beginning with law enforcement or EMS as a co-response until we get some of our policies and procedures ironed out,” Setterberg explained.

The program will eventually include a statewide call center for crisis care and a stabilization center. More information about Crisis Now can be found here.

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