Based on methods developed by national experts, the Alaska Mental Health Board estimates that 6.3% of Alaska's adult population experiences severe mental illness over the course of a typical year, the seventh highest rate in the nation. These figures represent only individuals whose mental illness results in significant functional impairments in daily living. In 1996, the prevalence rate means that 25,200 adults over age 19 experienced significant mental illness.
People experiencing psychiatric disorders need treatment/rehabilitation for their illness and may need supports in various aspects of their lives--employment, housing, transportation, social life. Participation by the person, family, natural support network and peers is vital to the treatment and recovery process. Many adults have their treatment and rehabilitation needs addressed by public (state and federal) service providers. Private service providers are also a vital element of mental health care in Alaska. These services may be financed by individuals, private health insurance or Medicaid reimbursement.
A focus for adult services in Alaska has been the down-sizing and redefining of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) and the development of community resources to complement a smaller API. The development of community resources is only one change in the shape of adult psychiatric services in Alaska. Mental health advocates also see the need to move into the current managed care environment in ways that emphasize community values, equity principles and service quality, in addition to cost effectiveness and containment. Greater access to mental health care can be achieved by expansion of private health insurance coverage. Thus, the Alaska Mental Health Board and advocates have urged greater "mental health parity" in health insurance coverage on the state level, to complement federal legislative changes.
Since the Alaska Mental Health Board first developed A Shared Vision in 1992, the needs of people with psychiatric disabilities have been greatly furthered by a strong consumer movement advocating for adequate funding of quality services and educating the public about psychiatric recovery. We are committed to assisting in these efforts.