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Fairbanks mental health center to open in January

Posted: December 26, 2013 - 12:06am

FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks will once again have a local drop-in center for people with mental illness, months after the previous provider dissolved amid financial problems.

The daytime center will be located at Fairbanks Community Mental Health Services, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. The center is set to open Jan. 6.

The service will be staffed by volunteers and will provide games, television, a light lunch and a place to socialize. It will be open weekdays between noon and 4 p.m.

“We’re thrilled,” said Cheris Haymond-Rotter, office manager for mental-health advocacy group NAMI of Fairbanks. “This is a very needed place for people to meet their friends and interact.”

The service will fill a void left by the September closure of the Fairbanks Community Behavioral Health Center, which announced plans to file for bankruptcy. Its departure eliminated many services.

Gene Redden, a retired health-care professional, spearheaded the effort to establish the new center. He will be the primary volunteer at the center.

Redden said residents had been left with few options during a long, isolating winter. A recent conversation with a friend who had used the old center emphasized its importance, he said.

“He and his buddies hang out a lot at the bus station until they get kicked out,” Redden said. “They don’t have anywhere else to go.”

Jami Teets, regional director of Fairbanks Community Mental Health Services, said about 30 people are expected to use his new service each day.

Utilities and other services will be funded with an anticipated $10,000 grant from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority. The center will be a work in progress, evolving based on how much funding is available and also based on the needs of people, according to Redden, who is scrapping plans for a winter RV trip on the Gulf of Mexico coast.

“We’re going to let it be pretty much consumer driven,” Redden said of the new drop-in center. “We’re going to ask the people what they want it to be.”

Redden envisions the center as a way to help people endure the winter months, but he hopes there will be a way to sustain the center beyond that brief window.

“I see it is short-term, but I hope it continues indefinitely,” he said. “I don’t know what that means, but that’s my hope.”

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