“The [prison] mental health clinician, a wonderful woman, came back to my segregation cell and talked to me through my tray slot and started to offer me real help. She brought me over to the mental health unit for a while and started helping me figure out what was wrong with me. I’m not bad, I have a disorder.”
– Nicole, Trust beneficiary
Trust beneficiaries are at increased risk for involvement with the criminal justice system, both as victims and defendants, due to their disabilities as well as deficiencies in the community treatment and support systems. Hundreds of beneficiaries each year are incarcerated for their safety because adequate service alternatives do not exist. Thousands more are arrested for offenses resulting from behaviors associated with symptoms of their mental disorders. The disability justice focus area is aimed at reducing the involvement and recidivism of Trust beneficiaries in the criminal justice system.
Since 2005, the Trust’s board of trustees has directed significant funding and staff resources towards criminal justice reform efforts in Alaska to address this and other justice related issues affecting beneficiaries, including reducing the involvement and recidivism of Trust beneficiaries in the criminal justice system as well as preventing the victimization of beneficiaries.
In 2014, the Trust funded a study of the prevalence and characteristics of Trust beneficiaries who entered, exited, or resided in an Alaska Department of Corrections facility between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2012. The study identified over 60,000 unique individuals, of which 30 percent identified as Trust beneficiaries. Additionally, Trust beneficiaries accounted for more than 40 percent of the incarcerations each year, and their median length of a jail/prison stay was significantly longer than for non-Trust beneficiary offenders.
The Trust uses the Sequential Intercept Model as the foundation for making funding allocations and policy decisions. The overall goals are
- developing criminal justice and community behavioral health partnerships;
- diverting trust beneficiaries from the criminal justice system; and,
- maintaining public safety by improving the health of beneficiaries and Alaska communities.
The Alaska criminal justice system continues to be a top priority of the Alaska Legislature and the executive branch. Areas of emphasis center on offender diversion programs such as crisis stabilization and therapeutic courts, providing behavioral health services for persons who are incarcerated, and reentry services for returning citizens. The disability justice focus area strategies are well aligned with these priorities and the Trust FY21 budget provides support for partners who are engaged in these efforts.
Alignment with the Comprehensive Mental Health Program Plan
The work of the Trust aligns with Strengthening the System: Alaska’s Comprehensive Integrated Mental Health Program Plan (comp plan), that was developed in a partnership between the Trust and the Department of Health and Social Services in coordination with community stakeholders. The Comp Plan identifies priorities for the next five years to inform planning and funding decisions to meet the needs of Trust beneficiaries. The intent is to strengthen the system of care to allow a comprehensive approach that quickly meets their needs.
The disability justice focus’s work with partner to ensure the criminal justice system effectively accommodates the needs of victims and offenders who are Trust Beneficiaries aligns with these plan objectives:
Goal 7, Objective 7.3 Reduce the number of Trust beneficiaries entering or becoming involved with Alaska’s criminal justice system.
Goal 8, Objective 8.3 Enhance and expand access to clinical and case management resources for Alaskans who are incarcerated.
Travis Welch, Program Officer
- Evaluating Housing First Programs in Alaska, May 2017
- The Economic Cost of Drug Misuse in Alaska, 2019 Update
- The Economic Cost of Alcohol Misuse in Alaska, 2019 Update
- Summary of Economic Costs of Substance Use Disorders in Alaska, 2019 Update
- Medicaid Expansion: Analysis of Prior Forecasts
- Trust Beneficiaries in Department of Corrections 2014
- Conflict Free Case Management Report 2015
- Review of Alaska Mental Health Statutes, 2014
- Alaska Criminal Justice Commission Annual Report, 2018
- Police-Mental Health Collaborations A Framework for Implementing Effective Law Enforcement Responses for People Who Have Mental Health Needs (BJA & CSG), 2019
- Principles of Community-based Behavioral Health Services for Justice-involved Individuals: A Research-based Guide (SAMSHA), 2019
- Managing the Seriously Mentally Ill in Corrections (Rand and partners), 2019
- Inside Out: Leaving Prison Behind, Documentary, KTOO