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I want to take this opportunity to explain my position on the transition of the City and Borough of Juneau Mental Health Services to private providers that occurred during the past six months. In an article published on Dec. 12 it was stated that I was a "critic" of the transition process. This is not the case. I have been involved with transitioning programs numerous times in several states. As I stated to the Assembly, this was the smoothest transition I have experienced. All who were involved worked tirelessly to make the smooth transition a reality. Concerns of the consumers were the primary consideration at every meeting. Juneau Youth Services was one of several state, city and private entities that participated in this endeavor. To accomplish a task that has gone so smooth is a credit to all that participated in the process.
The point in question was over the loss of long-term counseling or psychotherapy to children and their families. I stated that prior to the transition when the city provided the services, long-term psychotherapy was provided. During the transition, it was decided by the team to follow the model used in other parts of the state. This model emphasizes a brief therapy model and handles any emergency situation. The concern I expressed at the Dec. 11 meeting was a "heads up" to the Assembly that our agency had received concerns from both consumers and the Division of Family and Youth Services that long-term therapy is no longer being provided in our community for those who do not have insurance or the ability to pay. It was not in any way a criticism of the transition or the team. The assembly needs to know of any real or perceived concerns of the people of this community. But, it was not a criticism of the transition itself or any member of the team. The issue involves long-term psychotherapy which, by its nature, can last for years. Professionals can, and have, debated the advantages of long-term vs. short-term therapy. This is a debate that goes on in every community that serves mental health consumers and it will not be solved in this narrative.
The point I want to make is that our agency exists to serve the community. We have been successful because we try to meet the needs of the community in which we live. We could not have been successful without collaboration and the help of others in the community. All of these folks, and those who were on the transition team with us, genuinely care about service to the community.
If long-term psychotherapy is a needed service that has been lost in the transition, then it should be pursued. Or, short-term therapy may be just as effective. It may be the case that with the new Medicaid regulations and everyone collaborating a solution can be found. It is too soon to tell what services will be needed. The transition team was aware adjustments might be needed to make everything work well for the client. Throughout the process the city and the state were supportive of doing whatever it took to serve the existing and future needs of the community. I am certain that they are still eager to fill any existing need. Whether short-term or long-term therapy is the best intervention may be debated by professionals; but what cannot be debated is that I have in the past, and will continue to support the transition of mental health services and I am in no way critical of the process or integrity of the team members.
Charles Bennett is executive director of Juneau Youth Services, Inc.