Fairbanks Mobile Crisis Teams awarded $800,000 grant to strengthen crisis response – State of Reform

To continue improving Alaska’s response to individuals experiencing mental health difficulties, the Board of Trustees of the Alaska Mental Health Authority has awarded $800,000 in grant funding to the Behavioral Health Trust (AKBH) for the continued support of the Fairbanks Mobile Crisis Team (MCT).

The Trust supports the launch of MCT Fairbanks, which will begin operations in November 2021. MCT Fairbanks consists of mental health professionals and peer support specialists who assess individuals experiencing mental health difficulties while providing trauma-informed care, with a focus on suicide prevention.

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“This grant will support the ongoing deployment of a clinician/peer support professional mobile crisis team to help individuals in crisis stabilize in the community rather than in a more acute care setting like an emergency room or prison,” said Steve Williams, CEO of the Trust.

The mobile response unit was created as the current care system struggles to provide timely access to crisis services and is unable to meet individuals where they are in crisis. Current care systems often rely heavily on law enforcement, the criminal justice system and hospital emergency rooms to respond to behavioral health crises, according to Fairbanks MCT.

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“The mobile crisis team has 321 referrals from law enforcement, hospitals, and prisons,” Brenda McFarlane, Current Crisis Coordinator for Fairbanks, told State Reform.

The diversions took place during the first full year of the program-from November 1st, 2021, to October 31st, 2022. Fairbanks MCT call volume is higher now after a year of operation, according to McFarlane, who told the State of Reform that November 2022 had 89 calls with 89% diversion from law enforcement, incarceration, and hospitals.

“Our number will be significantly higher next year as our callout area will also expand,” McFarlane told State of Reformasi.

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MCT is dispatched by the 911 dispatch center in Fairbanks and provides service to anyone in North Star Borough at home, work., or other community-based locations.

Services include triage and screening; assessment; de-escalation and resolution; peer support; coordination with medical and behavioral health services; collaboration with family and natural support; information and referrals; and crisis planning and follow-up.

The Trust designates a portion of its operating budget for various types of grants, which are awarded to organizations that represent one or more of the Trust’s beneficiary groups. The Trust authorizes about $20 million in annual grants.

This $800,000 grant, which funds the program through November 30, 2023, will help provide needed crisis stabilization services in Alaska using Current Crisis model as a framework. Crisis Now is a continuum of services to improve mental health crisis response; prevent suicide; and reduce reliance on law enforcement, emergency rooms and jails when responding to crises. The model includes crisis call centers, mobile crisis teams and crisis stabilization centers.

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Not only will the grant support Fairbanks’s MCT staffing, but will also support ongoing coordination with local government, emergency services, law enforcement, and public health stakeholders who help ensure the success of MCT operations, according to the Trust.

“We are excited to make a difference for Fairbanks residents in crisis through the operation of Alaska’s first mobile crisis team,” said Sarah Koogle, AKBH Fairbanks Clinic Manager. “We are grateful for the Trust’s support to continue this work, which improves outcomes for individuals in crisis.”

The Current Crisis of Trust REPORTS indicates that there may be about 200 crisis episodes per 100,000 residents of North Star Borough, with 1,021 episodes annually for MCTs. So far this year, the Fairbanks MCT has received more than 700 dispatch calls, according to Biastock.


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