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Fairbanks mental health organization reopens with deep staff, service cuts

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Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 5:58 pm

FAIRBANKS—A revamped version of the organization that provides mental health services in Fairbanks emerged Wednesday with deep cuts in client services and a significantly smaller staff.

Fairbanks Community Mental Health Services reopened after a five-day closure, but the number of employees in the organization is expected to decline from 63 personnel to 25 by the end of the week. Many services, including daily meals and vocational training, will no longer be provided to clients.

The cuts are part of an effort to stabilize a system that simply wasn’t paying for itself, said new CEO Jerry Jenkins. He bluntly told a group of local social service providers on Wednesday that the Fairbanks operation can no longer provide free services to large numbers of clients.

“We’re a clinic provider,” he said. “Those things are gone.”

FCMHS emerges from the rubble of Fairbanks Community Behavioral Health Center, which ceased operations Friday as it makes plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The organization is $1.2 million in debt and didn’t have the money to continue operations past last week.

The newly formed organization, FCMHS, is a subsidiary of Anchorage Community Mental Health Services and will step in to provide care for local mental health clients until at least July.

Jami Teets, who was previously the manager of quality improvement at the facility, is the new regional director for FCMHS. Kandy Alley will be responsible for day-to-day operations as the clinical manager.

Jenkins, who is CEO of the Anchorage organization, said a top priority for FCMHS will be to stabilize its shaky finances. Only about 550 clients were billed to Medicaid last year, according to the Alaska Division of Behavioral Services, out of about 1,200 that health center officials say received some form of care.

To achieve those financial goals, much deeper staffing and service cuts were required than officials had anticipated, said interim executive director Jake Poole. As recently as last week, Poole estimated that about 20 positions would be eliminated.

The Denardo Center, which provides 24-hour crisis care, will also close at the end of this week unless a new funding stream is found to keep it open, Jenkins said.

With about 40 percent of its previous staffing level, it’s also unlikely that FCMHS continues to operate its main South Cushman Street facility. Mortgage, maintenance and utilities cost about $400,000 last year at the center, an amount that the organization can’t support.

“This building is now too big for what the organization is capable of providing,” Poole said.

Poole said FCMHS will probably move its downsized operations to the soon-to-be-vacant Denardo Center, which is located near the Pioneer Home in South Fairbanks.

The future of the six buildings owned by Fairbanks Community Behavioral Health Center is still uncertain. Poole said that once FCMHS decides where it will be based, the fate of the remaining buildings will likely be decided in bankruptcy court.

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMbusiness.

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