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Moving Forward: Comprehensive Integrated Mental Health Plan, 2006-2011 


Thousands of Alaskans with mental and developmental disabilities are incarcerated each year because they do not get the services they need through Alaska’s treatment and support systems. Police and court responses are often the only available resolution to crises or to public displays of untreated mental health problems, when appropriate treatment to prevent or respond to these situations was either unavailable or inaccessible.

Alaska has a high rate of child abuse and domestic violence. Experiencing or even witnessing violence may result in developmental delays, emotional disorders and substance use disorder.24 Adults with cognitive or developmental disabilities are also vulnerable to neglect and abuse. State programs can assist in strengthening and re-building families, providing treatment, and providing guardianship for adults with mental impairments.

Filling the gaps in treatment and support services, both in communities and within the correctional system, can prevent crises that bring people with mental and developmental disabilities into contact with the criminal justice system and contribute to their repeated incarceration. Training for police, court and prison personnel can help divert many people into appropriate treatment in communities or provide effective treatment when people with mental health problems or developmental disabilities are unavoidably or necessarily incarcerated.

Safety Goal #1: Protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect, and exploitation


Childhood maltreatment has been linked to a variety of changes in brain structure and function and stress-responsive neurobiological systems.25 The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study provides evidence that adverse childhood experiences cast a major shadow on health and well-being in peoples’ lives even 50 years later. “Adverse childhood experiences” include repeated physical abuse; chronic emotional abuse; and growing up in a household where someone was alcoholic or a drug user; a member was imprisoned; a mother was treated violently; someone was mentally ill, chronically depressed, or suicidal; or parents were separated or divorced during childhood.26

Figure 7 — Safety of Children: Number of Children with a Substantiated Report of Harm by Type of Harm

Figure 7 represents the number of Alaska’s children who were substantiated with the DHSS Division of Children’s Services as victims of child abuse and neglect. Counted in this data are children who had a report of harm which was investigated and harm substantiated. The total number of substantiated reports of harm decreased between 2008 and 2009. In 2009  there were 3,397 unique victims with allegations substantiated.

Figure WS-1: Rate of Child Abuse and Neglect per 1,000 (0-17 Years), Alaska and U.S.

Figure WS-1 shows that the rate of child abuse and neglect is consistently higher in Alaska than in the rest of the U.S. Child abuse and neglect is defined as:

  • Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or
  • An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

The rate was based on the unique count of victims divided by the state's child population, multiplied by 1,000.[U.S. DHHS Administration for Children and Families]

According to the U.S. DHHS, Administration for Children and Families , Alaska’s rate of child abuse and neglect is number 3 in the U.S.(Child Maltreatment 2009, Chapter 3, Table 3-5 Child Victims, p. 33) Caution should be used in interpreting this figure. Although the differences among state rates may reflect actual abuse/neglect they can also be impacted by state-to-state variation in statutory jurisdiction, agency screening processes and definitions, and the ability of states to receive, respond to, and document electronically investigations.[Alaska SCAN Program Director, DHSS DPH EPI Unit (email 10/20/09)]

Figure WS-2 — Recurrence of Child Maltreatment

Figure WS-2 shows the percentage of all Alaskan children who were subjects of substantiated or unconfirmed reports of harm during the first 6 months of the year and who had another substantiated or unconfirmed report of harm within 6 months. The rate of recurring child maltreatment increased slightly in state fiscal year 2010.

Reports of physical injury, sexual assault, and threats/injuries by weapon at school from Youth Risk Behavior Survey22.

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the number of Alaskan high school students reporting threats and sexual abuse has steadily increased since 2003.

  • Percent of students who did not go to school on one or more of the past 30 days because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to or from school:
    • 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey: 4.1 %
    • 2007Youth Risk Behavior Survey: 5.5 %
    • 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey: 6.0% (Alaska) and 5% (U.S.)

  • Percent of students who have ever been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to:
    • 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey: 8.1 %
    • 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey: 9.2 %
    • 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey: 10.1% (Alaska) and 7.4% (U.S.)

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Statistics

The 2010 Alaska Victimization Survey reports that 3.6% of Alaska adult women experienced alcohol or drug involved sexual assault in the past year. Nine percent experienced intimate partner violence (defined as physical violence or threats of physical violence by a romantic or sexual partner). Almost half (48%) of Alaska adult women have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
In state fiscal year 2009, the Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (CDVSA) funded a network of 21 victim service programs in eighteen Alaska communities.

During fiscal year 2009, programs provided services to 8,550 clients. Twenty seven percent of the clients were children. Services provided included 24-hour emergency support, safe shelter, crisis intervention, children’s services, food and clothing, referrals and many other services.

Table S-1 —Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Statistics by State Fiscal Year

Figure WS-3 Percentage of Alaskan Adults who have Experienced Domestic Violence over their Lifetime

Figure WS-3 shows the percentage of participants in the most recently-available Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS)14 who responded that they had witnessed domestic violence in their family as a child, experienced physical violence from an intimate partner, or been sexually abused during their lifetime. In 2009, twenty- one percent of Alaskan adults had experienced physical violence from an intimate partner; nineteen percent had witnessed domestic violence as a child; and fourteen percent had experienced sexual abuse. These percentages are almost exactly the same as those reported in the 2006 BRFSS.

Substantiated Reports of Harm to Adults per 1,000 Population (reported to DHSS Senior and Disabilities Services Adult Protective Services)

  • FY 2010: 1 per 1,000 population (Source: DHSS SDS Adult Protective Services, email 11/29/10)

The mission of Adult Protective Services (APS) is to prevent or stop harm to vulnerable adults resulting from abandonment, abuse, exploitation, neglect or self-neglect.  Vulnerable adults are those 18 years of age or older who have a physical or mental impairment or condition that prevents them from protecting themselves or from seeking help from someone else.  APS is a voluntary service, and Alaska law prohibits APS from interfering with adults who are capable of caring for themselves.

Figure WS-4 — Nonfatal Hospitalized Injuries due to Falls, Age 65+, Alaska and U.S.

The rate of falls requiring hospitalization for individuals age 65 and over is consistently higher in Alaska than it is in the U.S.43 Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injury in the elderly and are Alaska’s leading cause of hospitalization for traumatic brain injury.44

Safety Goal #2: Prevent and reduce inappropriate or avoidable arrest, prosecution, incarceration and recidivism of persons with mental health problems or developmental disabilities through appropriate treatment and supports.

Percent of Incarcerated Alaskans (Adults) who are Trust Beneficiaries

Nationwide, people with mental illness and cognitive impairments have been over-represented in the criminal justice system compared to their prevalence in society. Of the adults incarcerated in the Alaska correctional system, approximately 42 percent are Trust beneficiaries, mostly with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders, incarcerated for misdemeanors.By default, the Alaska Department of Corrections had become the largest provider of mental health services in the State of Alaska. Alaska has the highest growth rate for incarceration per capita in the USA.28

Statewide Criminal Recidivism Rates for Incarcerated Beneficiaries

Trust beneficiaries (36%) are more likely to recidivate than other offenders released from Alaska Department of Corrections (22% recidivism rate). Beneficiaries are also more likely to recidivate sooner and spend more time in ADOC custody. Inmates with severe mental illness were less likely to recidivate than inmates with mild mental illness or substance-related disorders who had a far higher rate of recidivism.28

Note: For more information, see Section IV. Justice for Persons with Disabilities Focus Area. 

Other Result Area Topics

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