Local groups to step in to fill city's void

Posted: Friday, February 25, 2000

When Juneau's Department of Health and Social Services drops its involvement in the community's mental health and chemical dependency programs, other agencies are expected to absorb the department's patient and client case load.

These include the Juneau Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Juneau Youth Services, Gastineau Human Services and Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Starting in December, the city began to hold meetings with the major providers of mental health and chemical dependency services in Juneau, said JAMI Executive Director Brenda Knapp.

The city advised it would not apply for state grants after the current fiscal year, and the state would be fielding requests for proposals to the various private and nonprofit providers for the necessary services.

Addressing the concern of city staff that clients might be ill-served in their transition from city clients to other agencies, Knapp said, ``I've had considerable discussion with clinical staff and members of our board of directors, and we feel we can effect a smooth transition.''

The Juneau community is small enough that some clients have been to different agencies and know staff from those agencies, Knapp said. ``And even within an agency, sometimes a person might have too big a case load and a client will be transferred to someone else.''

JAMI deals primarily with the chronically mentally ill and currently has a full-time staff of 30, with additional staff bringing the total to about 50.

``Our first concern is for the consumers,'' Knapp said. ``but second is for staff and their families. In taking on these programs, we expect to find a very good pool of people.''

With a staff of about 100, Juneau Youth Services is the largest provider of youth services in the state, said Executive Director Chuck Bennett.

JYS serves about 800 clients a year in Southeast and runs three residential facilities.

``The ideal transition would be to bring both staff and their clients on board,'' Bennett said. ``But remember that we provide services only to children up to age 19.''

JYS provides emergency services, mediation, hospital services, a mobile crisis unit, outpatient treatment and mental health assessment for families and children. The organization has also had a wilderness component since 1986, Bennett said.

``It's time for nonprofits and everybody to work together,'' said Gastineau Human Services Operations Manager Andy Swanston. ``The plan is not to have the city compete with these agencies.''

Overhead for Gastineau runs at about 15 percent - half the city's overhead, and the benefits are competitive, Swanston said.

Gastineau provides residential treatment that includes long term and intermediate care that often follows Juneau Recovery Hospital's intense, 21-day treatment.

The organization also takes in clients from Akeela House and the Clitheroe Center - drug and alcohol treatment facilities - in Anchorage, and from elsewhere in the state.

Bartlett Regional Hospital Administrator Bob Valliant said it was too early to make a comment about impending changes. Bartlett stands to inherit the Juneau Recovery Hospital from the city.

``We look forward to the challenge and expect an increase in efficiency through the elimination of duplication of services and a reduction of overhead,'' he said. ``It's a win-win situation for the Juneau community.''

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