I've been hospitalized many times, over many years in many countries. In my experience Alaska is one of the worst places to be mentally ill. In many countries authorities have an overt disrespect for certain groups, the homeless, the mentally ill, etc. Alaska is one of the few places where the disrespect reaches the level of predation.
Like a lot of people, I did not receive medical benefits until I went to jail. Even in jail I was not actually given the medicine I was supposed to have. A previous time in jail, during a psychiatric episode, I was locked in a cell until the episode passed, taken out of the cell once to get a beating by jail officers, but otherwise left alone. My psychiatric episodes always pass in about two weeks, regardless whether I'm in a hospital or a jail or in the woods, but Alaska is one of the few places that seems to steer the mentally ill towards jail and further problems. Is it really necessary?
Currently about 0% of mentally ill Alaskans who apply for disability help are approved by federal judges in Alaska.
In other words, about 100% of mentally ill Alaskan people who apply for minimal temporary relief this year are told to get lost.
Is that smart?
People on disability are not living extravagantly.
A person on SSI will receive a maximum of roughly $700 a month or less. On SSDI a person may get a maximum of about $2400, though most disabled people get much less. I get about $900 a month but plan to quit disability soon as I believe I have a stable source of income. I worked on and off for more than 30 years paying into the disability system. Why should people like me be forced through jail and numerous harassments before getting very minimal assistance?
A person does not go onto disability unless their situation is difficult.
Going onto disability involves giving up any significant professional options, along with accepting a low income without any chance of promotion or real success. Most people generally do not apply for disability until they have had many years of health related issues that have gotten progressively worse.
Medical costs are almost always an overwhelming factor in disabilities.
Medical doctors in the United States are among the highest paid professionals in the world. The U.S. pharmaceutical industry is one of the most profitable industries globally. When you put those two together you end up with a situation in which many people simply will not get care. Many people who are diagnosed with a mental illness are prescribed pills that may cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month. It simply is not possible for a person making normal wages to be able to afford to see a physician and buy medication.
Applying for disability is a coin toss.
In some places in the United States a person has a 90% chance of getting approved, in other places, like Alaska, less than a 10% chance, depending only on the specific judge assigned to their case. This arbitrariness both encourages fraud in places where people are approved automatically and, of course, leads to suicides and other problems in areas where desperate people are driven into a corner with no options.
A chart showing the variance between judges in different areas / states.
(Judges with approval percentages between 11% and 95% are left off the chart)
|JUDGE||OFFICE||APPROVAL %||TOTAL DECISIONS||TOTAL AWARDS||TOTAL DENIALS|
|Rodriguez, Gilbert||DALLAS NORTH||4.76||42||2||40|
|McGrath, Frederick||TALLAHASSEE FL||5.41||37||2||35|
|Bauer, John||PORTLAND OR||5.56||18||1||17|
|LaCara, Cecilia||ANCHORAGE AK||10||100||10||90|
|Kuzmack, Nicholas T||SALT LAKE CITY||96.04||202||194||8|
|Oliver, Henry||ELKINS PARK||96.59||176||170||6|
|Foley, Patrick J||TAMPA||97.81||183||179||4|
|De Bernardis, Craig||ELKINS PARK||97.96||147||144||3|
|Allen, John R||NHC FALLS CHURCH||100||2||2||0|
|Barbeito, Betty Roberts||LOS ANGELES WEST||100||1||1||0|
|Baum, Peter J||HONOLULU||100||2||2||0|
|Bunce, Elliott||NHC FALLS CHURCH||100||4||4||0|
|Burke, James A||OKLAHOMA CITY||100||14||14||0|
|Callis, Philip E||STOCKTON||100||2||2||0|
|Carvalho, Sherrill A. L||FRESNO||100||1||1||0|
|Dixon, Rodney E||COLUMBUS||100||12||12||0|
|Engel, David W||MCALESTER||100||2||2||0|
|Filion, Cheri L||ANCHORAGE AK||100||1||1||0|
|Heely, Daniel G||HONOLULU||100||1||1||0|
|Heimann, Joseph L||ST LOUIS||100||1||1||0|
|Laba, Sherianne||TOPEKA KS||100||2||2||0|
|Laba, Sherianne||WEST DES MOINES||100||1||1||0|
|Leary, Joseph F||DOVER||100||2||2||0|
|Martin, Lisa B||HUNTINGTON||100||6||6||0|
|Morris, John R||OKLAHOMA CITY||100||3||3||0|
|Scully-Hayes, Kathleen||NHC CHICAGO||100||2||2||0|
|Wiedemann, Karen||OKLAHOMA CITY||100||3||3||0|
Disability judges in Alaska routinely deny almost 100% of people who apply for medical disability benefits, pandering to some popular need to 'punish' those who are considered inferior, and using the false rationale that the sick are not actually sick, or that they are not sick enough, or that they are pretending.
Police in Alaska, from local to federal, are too often simply predators with badges. Alaska has a lot of decent police but the norm is a public display of tolerance, even support, while authorities discreetly harass and victimize the vulnerable. Most places have credible effective community leaders who keep police powers in check. Alaska does not.
Medical professionals often have no interest in patients who have little money. This is understandable, medicine is a business after all, but in Alaska it reaches a level of obscenity.
During my last episode I went to provider after provider, trying to get medical services. My former doctor said he could not help me because I was not a client. One major provider could not help me because I owed them money. One major provider had a short waitlist for people with insurance but without insurance the waitlist was quite long. One person told me basically to come back when I had money, etc.
Alaska does stand out from many other places.