FHM receives funds to increase access to behavioral health services

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Fairbanks Memorial Hospital held a press conference Monday regarding funds that were given from the State of Alaska and the Alaska Legislature to increasing access to behavioral health services.

"Certainly Alaska's not immune to the behavioral health crisis right now across the county and Fairbanks is right there. The Department of Health and Social Services is clearly the most complex department in the state and it's got the biggest budget challenges," said President of the Foundation Health Partners Jeff Cook.

Cook spoke about the large gaps in our availability on services in Fairbanks. He spoke on behalf of the hospital saying there is responsibility to help fill those gaps and find ways to better serve the community.

"Behavioral health doesn't just impact the patients that we treat. It impacts families. It impacts employers and it impacts our social services systems and certainly all aspects of our community," said Cook.

Behavioral Health Medical Director at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital Dr. Vanessa Venezia says her department has been looking at creative solutions and ways to address the behavioral health problem, and while FMH cannot be the sole owner of the solutions, they are looking to work with others in the community to come up with some strategies and plans to improve access.

"Life happens in real time and problems happen in real time and your behavioral health care should too," said Venezia.

Patients needing services in Fairbanks may have to stay in the Emergency Room Department for days until mental health services are available in the behavioral health unit.

"We are looking to enhance the amount of care we provide, and do it in a way to help the patient get stabilized and back home as soon as possible," Venezia said in a statement.

Alaska and the state legislature will provide $2.2 million for two years in state and federal funds to help ensure that emergency behavioral health care is consistently available.

"The administration recognizes the true importance of getting our hands around this behavioral health issue and it's the benefit of all across Alaska. It helps with public safety. It helps with regional needs. It helps with emergency services," said Alaska Commissioner for the Department of Health and Social Services Adam Crum.

Although the hospital is in the beginning stages of allocating the funds, FMH has taken some progressive steps by hiring additional staff and doctors to aid the growing number of patients in need. Commissioner Crum says the administration is looking forward to working with community based providers to reach the level of care Fairbanks needs.