Complex Behavioral Health Community Task Force issues its first report

Without a permanent shelter and resources, there is currently little access to mental health support for homeless people
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 12:17 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Complex Behavioral Health Community Task Force has been working on recommendations to address the behavioral health needs of people experiencing homelessness, as well as those at risk of becoming homeless.

Members of the task force said their work became urgent after the closure of the Sullivan Arena in May. On Thursday, the task force issued its first formal report that details its immediate solutions recommendations.

Without a permanent shelter and resources, there is currently little access to mental health support for homeless people, or those on the verge of losing their homes.

“Just getting your needs met is really hard, so what’s tended to happen is people have not gotten those needs met and their conditions worsen,” said Thea Agnew Bemben, a member of the task force.

The task force identified several varied solutions such as getting the mobile crisis and mobile intervention teams going around the clock and bolstering in-patient and out-patient treatment programs.

“We also need to partner with providers, contract with providers who can go out in the field or woods where homeless people are to provide medical care,” Anchorage Assembly member Daniel Volland said.

Volland believes Anchorage can’t do it all by itself; it needs more support from the state and investment from the federal government.

The report emphasizes treatment of complex care needs requires a safe place to stay, meal support, access to medical care, and behavioral health treatment, among other services.

The report emphasized immediate needs and set a series of short-term goals:

  • The first goal is to identify and connect with the most vulnerable people in Anchorage who are either currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
  • The second goal is to provide immediate, low-barrier shelter which includes navigation services.
  • The third goal is to evaluate overall housing, behavioral health, and other medical and care needs to create long-term solutions to address complex behavioral health issues among this demographic.

“Right now is go time and we need all hands on deck — city, state, and federal government — if we’re going to keep our community a healthy and thriving place and take care of the most vulnerable,” Volland said.

“It takes resources, it takes a commitment, it takes a spirit of kindness and generosity and I think that’s what our community could be,” Agnew Bemben said.

The task force said in the report they are leaving mid- and long-range goals to be addressed at future meetings.

The task force’s goal for the release of their next report on long-term solutions is Sept. 5.