Alaska Psychiatric Institute under microscope, how it effects Fairbanks

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Alaska's Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage has been under a microscope after allegations of abuse, neglect and lack of documentation - a problem discovered by investigators causing ripple effects across the Interior. The Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage is being forced to undergo changes after allegations of sexual abuse between patients, as well as, neglect and deficiencies with documentation.

But how does this effect the behavioral health crisis here in the Interior? Well, Fairbanks is overcrowded and with limited services, many have to travel to Anchorage for further care.

"Kind of when we reach our capacity or when patients exceed our capabilities to serve, that API exists on order to serve those patient," said Medical Director Vanessa Venezia from Fairbanks Memorial Hospital's Psychiatric Department.

Fairbanks has the Community Mental Health Clinic, but there is no psychiatric hospital. So this type of care is usually taken on by the patient's primary care physician.

"They obviously are limited in terms of the total number of patients. I think they would like to serve everyone, but they are having difficulty with access, which I think all behavioral health providers are experiencing because there is just not enough total providers," said Venezia.

But she's hopeful the Department of Health and Social Services will help make meaningful changes.

"So that API can get stabilized because it definitely impacts FMH," she said.

She also says the Alaska's mental health care flaws can change with the help from the new commissioners and grants coming in from state. But ultimately, they'll need more than just that.

"So until those out-patient solution are developed, we know that we'll continue to rely on the inpatient unit in the ER. So this money is earmarked to really begin to improve the care in the ER," she said.

It's a process that will be mended over time, but she believes they're moving in the right direction.

"We're in this together. We're going to stand shoulder to shoulder until this problem is resolved," said Venezia.

The first step to finding a soulution is to start the conversation.