API gets OK from the feds amid talks of privatization

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - After a troubled recent history, the Alaska Psychiatric Institute is in “substantive compliance” with federal and state licensing requirements, according to the Dunleavy administration.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) has visited API and withdrawn its termination action against API and considers it to be in good standing. Gov. Mike Dunleavy touted the news as a “major milestone” Monday afternoon at the 80-bed acute care facility.

API has struggled recently with complaints of unsafe conditions for staff and patients and low patient numbers. Dunleavy says the number of occupied beds has risen from a low of 22 to 46 on Monday.

Adam Crum, the Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner, says getting to full capacity is predicated on more psychiatric nurses being hired.

The announcement comes on the same day that the State of Alaska asked contractors to determine if it is feasible for API to be privatized.

In 2017, the Alaska Legislature commissioned a report that looked into privatizing API, finding that full privatization would likely cost the state more and "likely diminish the quality of service delivery."

Al Wall, a deputy health commissioner, says the 2017 study coincided with a crash in patients being treated at API and that a new study into privatization of the facility is appropriate.

Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, who introduced legislation that would prevent API from being privatized, accuses the Dunleavy administration of being "hellbent" on privatization “regardless of the costs, regardless of the impacts on patient care.”

Wellpath Recovery Solutions, a for-profit company, is currently under contract to assist the State in running some API services through 2019. The company has a checkered history in other states with complaints and numerous lawsuits.

Fields questioned paying Wellpath $1 million a month and suggested the money could be used to ensure a better level of care. The administration says the company has done “everything asked of it.”

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