Announcement Date: September 17, 2018

At the annual Alaska Behavioral Health Association (ABHA) meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, members took a deep dive on the current costs of mental illness in their state. Seth Seabury, Ph.D., of the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics presented the latest data chartbook and fielded questions from attendees.

Alaska Data Challenges

Alaska is unique in the U.S. health care landscape and there are many state-specific factors to consider when looking at data on health care spending, workforce shortages and treatment access. The geographical layout of Alaska and the variability of population density across the state make the data very sensitive to outliers. For example, a high-density of professionals at a hospital in one city can sway the numbers state-wide, providing an inaccurate depiction of Alaska’s true workforce needs. In response to this, the USC Schaeffer Center is looking more closely at county-level data to produce a true picture of the state of behavioral health in Alaska.

By the Numbers: Alaska Comparisons

Costs of providing care are significantly higher in Alaska and that is reflected in the data. Alaska also has fewer psychiatrists and psychiatric care beds than the U.S. average and, as is well-documented, the national average already represents a widespread shortage of care options for Americans. Alaskans who have experienced serious psychological distress are 1.5-2 times more likely to have been arrested, or on probation or parole in the past year when compared to the rest of the United States.

Presentation: The Cost of Mental Illness: Alaska Facts and Figures