What They’re Watching: Steve Williams

Steve Williams is the Chief Operating Officer of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss the psychiatric crisis continuum of care.



“We’re really concerned about the psychiatric crisis continuum of care. Everything from trying to prevent people in psychiatric crisis from going into emergency rooms to ending up at API, our psychiatric institution, when we know that there are a plethora of services in between there that, if they were available, would avoid crisis and higher levels of cost and care. Using a peer workforce, people with lived experience, and really tapping into that so that someone who’s experienced a psychiatric crisis can be a part of addressing the crisis with an individual because they’ve walked in their shoes.

I think the other thing that’s critical is making sure that there is accessibility. And by accessibility I don’t mean just that there’s a service in the community, but there’s a service in the community that people can get ready, real-time access to. I think one of the biggest hurdles is Alaska’s going through the 1115 behavioral health waiver and that’s really a flipping of the way the state has funded and identified the services that are needed for folks in Alaska. And when you make a major change to a system it requires time and a sustained effort. And when there are factors outside of your control like budget, legislation, workforce shortages, and things like that, you can either get stalled or get distracted in dealing with a crisis which really kind of short-changes your effort to the long-term goal of implementation.”