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Judge accepts agreement to limit how people in mental health crises can be held in jails or hospital emergency rooms

September 2, 2020

ALASKA – When people are having mental health crises, the last thing they should have to do is wait to be evaluated, in custody, in a hospital emergency room, or, worse, in a correctional facility.  Yet that is what has been happening to people in crisis since API reduced its evaluation and treatment capacity in the fall of 2018.  The Disability Law Center sued to eliminate this practice in October 2018, and Judge William Morse has now approved an agreement that will make it possible for people to get evaluated, if necessary and clinically appropriate, in the places where they are being held.

Judge Morse issued his approval order September 3, 2020, and a copy of his final judgment is available here.  Our full press release is here.

 

Lawsuit Seeks to Extend Absentee Voter Applications to all Alaskans

July 17, 2020

ALASKA - The Disability Law Center has joined Native Peoples Action Community Fund, Alaska Public Interest Research Group, and individuals Aleija Stover and Camille Rose Nelson in a lawsuit challenging the Lieutenant Governor and the Alaska Division of Elections decision to limit its mailing of absentee voter applications to only Alaskans over 65. This arbitrary limitation does nothing to protect younger Alaskans with disabilities from the COVID-19 pandemic. To the extent that the State can proactively mail absentee ballot applications to one group of Alaskans, it should do so for all.

 

Press Release: DHSS Cannot House People Waiting for Psychiatric Evaluations in Jail and Must Provide Evaluations Outside API

October 22, 2019

ALASKA – There has been a victory for Alaskans with disabilities. One year after the Disability Law Center (DLC) sued the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to end the practice of housing people in need of psychiatric evaluation in jail and emergency rooms while awaiting admission to API, Superior Court Judge William F. Morse has determined the practice causes irreparable harm and has ordered DHSS to create a plan for corrective action by December 5, 2019. The Order protects both the fundamental liberty rights and wellbeing of individuals with mental illness.

Press Release: Forcing People Into New Mental Institutions Will Not Prevent Mass Shootings

August 23, 2019 ALASKA - There has been a dangerous change in the public discourse following the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Mass shootings are often blamed on “mental illness.” However, while recent discussions include suggestions that states should enact and enforce “red flag” laws, or report people who have been civilly committed to a firearms database, there is a new proposal that the public should guard against mass shootings by building new psychiatric institutions to house people with mental illness.

Audio of Court Hearing about API Litigation

March 22, 2019 - Updated April 10, 2019

The Disability Law Center of Alaska is suing to restrain the State from keeping Alaskans who need psychiatric evaluation waiting in jails or hospitals, instead of being evaluated at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API). We have asked that if no appropriate evaluation is available, people be released.

A hearing on these issues began on March 19, 2019. Recordings of the March 21st portion of the hearing, each approximately 2 hours, are available here:

Testifying on that day were:

Al Wall, Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Health and Social Services and CEO of API
Gennifer Moreau, Acting Director of the Division of Behavioral Health
Closing arguments on DLC’s motion for relief (as outlined above) took place on April 10, 2019. Audio is available here:

Related DLC press release:

API Privatization Leaves More Questions than Answers

February 8, 2019

ALASKA - The Disability Law Center of Alaska (DLC) is concerned about the State’s press release dated February 8, 2019, announcing the Alaska Psychiatric Institute will fall under the management of Wellpath, a private, for-profit company. Our caution stems in part from documented problems in the privatization of medical and mental health care in federal prisons, the privatization of immigration detention facilities, and the privatization of state psychiatric hospitals. According to David Fleurant, DLC’s Executive Director, “Privatization creates tension between patient care and profit. When choosing between the two, what will a Wellpath corporate office in Nashville decide?”

 

 

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