Boards welcome public comment on state of mental health in Alaska

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Published: Feb. 24, 2020 at 5:45 PM AKST
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Over the course of a few days this week, the public will have the chance to discuss with officials the state of mental health here in Alaska and what can be done to improve conditions for people in both rural and urban communities.

"I think the answer," said Bev Schoonover, of the Alaska Mental Health Board and Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, "is folks working together, and there's a lot of folks working together on these issues in Alaska - statewide, locally, and within rural communities and tribes."

The Alaska Mental Health Board and

had its first gathering of the week on Tuesday, the first of three days dedicated to reviewing and discussing various facets of the topic of mental health.

An arm of the state's health department, the boards are charged with planning and coordinating portions of the behavioral health services funded by the state of Alaska. Discussions on this first day of meeting included items such as current and future legislation - consider

, which would amend law to "encourage" review of mental health science for grades kindergarten through 12th in all public schools - and needs for improving health care in Alaska.

One of the items mentioned regarding the latter was "filling the gaps" in the mental health care system as a whole, including improving behavioral workforce development, housing opportunities, transportation options, and access to services in general for rural communities.

"People are welcome to come down to the Dimond Center or they can call in," Schoonover said, "but we're always taking public comment, and anyone who wants to share their ideas and thoughts with us about this and the state-funded behavioral health system, they can always reach out to us."

The meetings through Thursday are open to the public, and public comment will be open from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Dimond Center Hotel. You may also call in by dialing (800) 315-6338, code number 58920#.

The full agenda can be found


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