“My mom has a home health care business and an assisted living home. We work with a lot of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s –- it can be hard for our employees emotionally. We have a lot of turnover.”
- Josh, Anchorage
The healthcare workforce is a priority area for the Trust because a competent and engaged group of direct support workers who can provide quality care is essential in Trust efforts to improve beneficiary outcomes. There are workforce shortages in every discipline of the healthcare industry in our state, and without stable and competent staff, the needs of vulnerable Alaskans will not be met. For these reasons, the Trust has been investing in workforce initiatives over the last several years.
The AK Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOLWD) predicts the health care industry will increase 21.4% by 2026, which equates to over 10,000 new jobs. At the same time, our workforce demographic, 18-64 year olds, is declining. This means we must focus not only on growing our own workers, but simultaneously recruit heavily from outside Alaska. According to DOLWD, 47 of Alaska’s 50 fastest-growing occupations are in the healthcare sector, and the Alaska Healthcare Workforce Coalition is leading efforts to supporting that job growth. Furthermore, health care workforce development is essential to maintaining the state’s overall economic health during this period of low oil prices, COVID-19 mandates, and associated impacts.
To provide quality care for our beneficiaries we must have a robust health care system across Alaska’s communities that can provide necessary care and on-going support. This level of care helps improve our beneficiary’s quality of life, and with their ability to choose how and where they live. Focusing on the workforce is integral to supporting the 1115 Waiver services expansion, as well as projects like Crisis Now that will go hand-in-hand with these expanded services.
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.
One of the core areas needed to ensure the execution of the Alaska Comprehensive Integrated Mental Health Plan (Comp Plan) is a competent workforce.
Goal 9 has two objectives that directly address workforce issues.
Goal 9, Objective 9.1: Strengthen workforce capacity with improved recruitment and retention to obtain and maintain knowledge and support innovation and modernization.
Goal 9, Objective 9.2: Advance the competencies of the healthcare, behavioral health, and public health workforce.
These two objectives and their related strategies are dedicated to engaging, recruiting, training, and retaining professionals for supporting the healthcare workforce. Several of the strategies support “growing your own” professionals through primary and secondary education, training, loan repayment, distance-delivered education, and career pathways. Moreover, as the healthcare field is constantly evolving, and it takes a nimble group of organizations to meet this ever-changing field.
- The Alaska Health Workforce Coalition 2017-2021 Action Agenda
- Alaska Economic Trends, October 2018
- Alaska’s SHARP Program (DHSS)
- Health TIE (Testbed for Innovative Enterprises)
- Mat-Su Workforce Development Assessment and Plan
- National Academy for State Health Policy, Case Study: How Alaska Addresses Its Health Care Workforce Challenges
- Crisis Now Consultation Report, RI International, December 2019
- NCI Staff Stability Report, Alaska, 2018