BUDGET ALERT: Developmental Disabilities, Mental Health & FASD

The conference committee for the budget had their first meeting this week. It was an organizational meeting and no action was taken, but we expect legislators will begin acting soon.

If you haven’t already, please take a few minutes to send an email, letter, or phone call to the legislators about the budget items (listed below) that matter to you most.

The more legislators hear about a specific budget item, the more they will take notice. Every communication counts! Thank you for taking the time to act!


Front Line Social Workers
Governor’s FY18 Budget: -$225,000 reduction
House: +$4,972,000 increase
Senate: -$886,200 reduction

Impact: The Senate reduction would eliminate six full-time positions responsible for ensuring quality of services, client grievances and appeals, compliance with federal performance improvement plans, foster care payment processing, and other duties. Staffing and resource limitations will also impair the division’s ability to locate and assess relatives for foster care placement. The increase recommended by the House would add 31 positions and improve training that would help OCS serve families better and bring caseloads down to a safer and more manageable level, closer to professional standards.

McLaughlin Youth Center
Governor’s request: +$100,000
House: Same as Governor
Senate: -$763,600

Impact: The Senate reduction will result in the closure of the Community Detention Program (an alternative to detention) at both McLaughlin Youth Center and the Mat-Su Youth Facility. In FY 16 the program diverted 183 youth from expensive beds in detention. Community detention serves youth who commit low-level offenses, who are not a serious risk to themselves or others, and who need additional supports, such as case dismissal, diversion, probation, treatment, etc. The program allows youth to come to the facility for the day, attend school and obtain services, such as anger management and drug and alcohol counseling, then go home at night. Without this program, youth moving instead to expensive detention beds could grow by 150-200 per year. McLaughlin Youth Facility is already over capacity, so a new wing will need to be opened to accommodate the additional youth, at a cost of about $1.6 million per year to operate.

Adult Public Assistance (APA)
Governor’s FY18 Budget: No increase, no reduction
House: Reduces surplus funding in Public Assistance and gives it to OCS front line social workers
Senate: -$3.5 million

Impact: Department projections indicate a reduced APA caseload, resulting in $3.5 million of “excess” funding. The House proposed using $3.3 million of this excess funding to support frontline social workers in OCS. The Senate reduction would eliminate the $3.3 million (not transferred to OCS) and an additional $210,000, for a total of a $3.5 million reduction to the program. APA provides cash assistance to Alaskans in need, whether they are elderly, blind, or disabled, to help them remain independent and in the community.

Behavioral Health Medicaid Services
Governor’s FY18 Budget: +$15.8 million
House: Same as Governor
Senate: -$462,000

Impact: Additional Behavioral Health Medicaid funds are needed to ensure the goals of Medicaid reform AND criminal justice reform are met. Both systems rely on timely access to appropriate behavioral health services to avoid more expensive alternatives like hospitalizations and incarceration. Reductions in access to community behavioral health services will result in increased pressure on API, increased utilization of emergency departments, and long waits for treatment. Pre-trial diversion efforts will be affected by limited access to treatment to avoid incarceration.

Parents as Teachers
Governor’s FY18 Budget: No increase, no reduction
House: Same as Governor
Senate: -$500,000 (in the Early Learning Coordination allocation)

Impact: The Senate cut will eliminate the Alaska Parents as Teachers program to provide parent education and family support services to families of young children in more than 50 communities and villages statewide. Certified parent educators work closely with parents to provide information and tools that promote language development, intellectual growth, social development, and motor skills. Delivery includes home visits and multi-family group activities.

Best Beginnings
Governor’s FY18 Budget: No increase, no reduction
House: Same as Governor
Senate: -$320,000 (in the Early Learning Coordination allocation)

Impact: The Senate reduction will eliminate Alaska’s Best Beginnings program to serve families across the state in promoting early education and literacy. Best Beginnings is a public-private partnership that focuses on parent engagement and education, community support for early childhood, language and literacy.

Day Habilitation Services
No increase
Senate: +$1,486,000 increase

Impact: The Senate recommendation would add funding to increase Day Habilitation services from 8 to 12 hours. Day habilitation services may be provided to assist Alaskans with disabilities to acquire, retain, and improve the self-help, socialization, and adaptive skills necessary to live successfully in home and community-based settings. The services support recipients in increasing their independence; participating in community activities; learning, improving and retaining social skills; and providing a foundation of skills that promote employability.

Medicaid Prescription Drugs
Governor’s FY18 Budget: No increase, no reduction
House:  Same as Governor
Senate:  -$2.9 million

Impact:  The Senate proposal to cut Medicaid Pharmacy services by $2.9 million ($1.9 million in federal funds and $973,500 in state general funds) will result in further cost containment and prioritization of prescription medications, which could affect beneficiary medication regimens, causing negative health consequences and reduced functioning that can affect an individual’s ability to work, go to school, parent, and remain stable in the community.

Public Health Nursing
Governor’s FY18 Budget:  +$500,000 transfer from Public Health Administration
House:  Same as Governor
Senate:  -$1.9 million

Impact:  The Senate reductions will eliminate 11 positions and force the closure of public health centers in Kenai and Kodiak, adding to the recent elimination of 40 positions statewide including the nurses that provided services in Seward, Cordova, Haines, Wrangell, Galena, Fort Yukon, and Delta Junction.  Public health nurses provide community health services, including immunizations, prenatal counseling and postpartum outreach, senior care, well-child exams, TB screening and treatment, school screenings, STD screening, and health education. Community Health Centers cannot bill for the majority of services public health nursing provides, and will not be able to pick up those services.  The result will be a loss of prevention health care in those communities. Public health nurses also work in the community to provide health education, emergency preparedness plans, community health assessments, and more.

Adult Preventative Dental Services
Governor’s FY18 Budget:  No increase, no reduction
House:  Same as Governor
Senate:  -$288,000

Impact:  A 10% reduction in Adult Preventative Dental Medicaid services will result in some beneficiaries going without access to medically necessary dental care, which will result in higher utilization of other services – particularly emergency rooms services for untreated abscesses, pain, and collateral health consequences from poor dental health.

Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API)
Governor’s FY18 Budget: No increase, no reduction
House: Same as Governor
Senate: -$631,300 cut
ASK: Please support the House recommendation for the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API).
Impact: The Senate reduction would eliminate premium pay for nursing staff. API is already struggling to recruit and maintain staff due to the complexity and acuity of its patient population. Without the financial incentive of premium pay, API will not be able to compete for highly qualified staff – which will affect the health and safety of patients (and staff) in the hospital and increase the risk and cost to the State for workplace injury, inappropriate seclusion and restraint, delayed admissions, and patient complaints.

Alaska Temporary Assistance Program (ATAP)
Governor’s FY18 Budget: No increase, no reduction
House: Same as Governor
Senate: -$3 million
ASK: Please support the House recommendation for Alaska Temporary Assistance Program.
Impact: The Senate’s $3 million reduction, on top of last year’s $7 million reduction, will compound ATAP’s existing deficit and increase the need for a supplemental request in 2018 to avoid a penalty by the federal government for failure to meet its maintenance of effort obligations. If that happens, the federal government will reduce dollar-for-dollar the state’s federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant the following year. The program provides cash assistance and work services to low-income families with children to help with basic needs while they work to become self-sufficient.

Pre-Kindergarten Grants
Governor’s FY18 Budget: No increase, no reduction
House: Same as Governor
Senate: -$2 million
ASK: Please support the House recommendation for Pre-K grants.
Impact: The Senate recommendation would eliminate grant funds for in-school preschool programs that serve low-income families. Pre-K program grantees help children learn social and academic skills needed to be ready for kindergarten, working in classrooms and as outreach to families who prefer in-home care for their preschoolers. Public schools may use grant funds to subcontract with family child care centers, faith-based settings, Head Start programs, and private child care centers to provide these services.


Contact These Budget Conference Committee Members:
sen.lyman.hoffman@akleg.gov 907-465-4453
sen.anna.mackinnon@akleg.gov 907-465-3777
sen.donny.olson@akleg.gov 907-465-3707
rep.paul.seaton@akleg.gov 907-465-2689
rep.neal.foster@akleg.gov 907-465-3789
rep.lance.pruitt@akleg.gov 907-465-3438