Fairbanks psychiatric treatment center approved

Posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2006

FAIRBANKS - The state has cleared the way for a youth psychiatric treatment center to be built in Fairbanks.

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The Alaska Department of Health and Social Service awarded a certificate of need to Iowa-based Boys and Girls Home and Family Services Inc., in collaboration with Family Centered Services of Alaska in Fairbanks. The certificate entitles the agencies to open a residential treatment facility housing up to 44 children ages 5 to 18.

In December, the state denied applications from the Boys and Girls Home and North Star Behavioral Health System of Anchorage for a proposed facility in Fairbanks. The state also denied a proposal by Family Centered Services and Boys and Girls Home for a $17 million, 60-bed long-term treatment center.

John Regitano, executive director of Family Centered Services, said when Health and Human Services commissioner Karleen Jackson denied both applications, the agencies were given a choice of how to proceed. They could reapply - a process that could take at least a year - or the agencies could submit supplements to the original applications that addressed specific concerns.

Both applicants chose the supplemental approach. Boys and Girls Home and Family Centered Services clarified some funding concerns and detailed more clearly how the effort had community colla- boration with other providers. Regitano said the application also reduced the number of beds.

Not that the area couldn't support a 60 bed facility. Over the past three years, the immediate Fairbanks area has had as many as 85 youths in residential psychiatric treatment daily.

The state, however, uses a formula of need that puts the number of beds a Fairbanks facility could successfully support at 44, said deputy commissioner Bill Hogan.

Regitano said the plans for the facility include room for expansion as the need grows.

The idea for a residential treatment center in Fairbanks has been in the works for several years, he said. Family Centered Services found in the Boys and Girls Home a partner that had the financial backing and expertise for a facility.

Regitano said the need for a facility has not been contested. There are only about 180 instate beds - all in Anchorage - for psychiatric residential treatment of youth.

Last year, the state placed 800 Alaska children with severe mental illness in facilities outside Alaska, according to Regitano.

The $30 million Fairbanks project will be funded through fully insured nonprofit bonds. The facility is targeted to be completed by October 2008 and operational by December 2008.

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