Anchorage, Alaska, (April 1, 2019) At a board meeting on March 28, 2019, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority Trustees directed $150,000 to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to help the state address the significant backlog of defendants currently in jail waiting for forensic psychiatric evaluations.
At this time, an estimated 45 Trust beneficiaries are in a Department of Corrections facility awaiting forensic psychiatric evaluations. With Trust funds, DHSS will immediately, through contracted forensic psychiatric services, begin assessing defendants who are awaiting review. It is anticipated that backlogged evaluations will be completed by mid-May 2019.
“Alaskans shouldn’t wait in jail for 7 weeks for their competency to be determined,” said Mike Abbott, CEO of the Trust. “We appreciate the department addressing this pressing need. With this allocation of Trust funds, beneficiaries in this legal limbo can receive their evaluation and then have their cases resolved in a timelier manner.”
DHSS Deputy Commissioner Albert Wall noted, “The department appreciates the partnership of the Trust on this critical issue. We are committed to providing timely and appropriate care to Alaskans and this funding will go a long way to help.”
These evaluations, required by law, must occur when there is a question that a defendant lacks the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or her or to assist meaningfully in his or her defense. A defendant’s legal proceedings cannot continue until an evaluation has been conducted. Due to capacity constraints, and an increasing number of Trust beneficiaries with orders for evaluations, API has been unable to meet demand.
Allison Biastock, Chief Communications Officer