Read about the Alaska State Ombudsman’s case management system improvements, Anchorage home, and a report on our grievance process in our Summer 2019 Newsletter.
We have a new, easy-to-use complaint portal that allows Alaskans to make a complaint any time, 24/7, to the Ombudsman. This online complaint portal is part of an improved case management system being implemented to manage complaints and investigations. You can also make complaints in person at our Juneau or Anchorage office, by phone at 907.269.5290, or by mail.
We are excited to announce that we are moving into our permanent offices in the Legislative Office Building in Anchorage. We will be closed Thursday, May 23 through Tuesday May 28 while we move and get settled in the new space, which was designed to increase accessibility and security for visitors and staff.
The Alaska State Ombudsman received 1,855 requests for information or assistance with complaints in 2018. We opened 1,327 jurisdictional complaints for review. We helped resolve 426 complaints informally with state agencies and complainants, and completed 46 formal investigations. Read more about our services and outcomes in the 2018 Annual Report.
Alaska State Ombudsman Kate Burkhart has concluded an investigation of three allegations related to patient safety and use of seclusion and restraint at Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API). The Ombudsman made eleven recommendations to the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) and API to address the problems investigated.
Between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2018, the Ombudsman received 42 complaints specifically about API. Nearly one-third of those complaints alleged maltreatment or neglect of patients. In December 2017, the Ombudsman received a complaint that a member of API staff had assaulted a patient. On June 20, 2018, the Ombudsman received a series of allegations about the way API staff were treating patients.
The Ombudsman initiated an investigation upon her own motion under AS 24.55.120 on June 20, 2018. The Ombudsman investigated three allegations:
- API does not take reasonable and necessary action to prevent and/or mitigate the risk of harm to patients from use of force by API staff.
- API does not take reasonable and necessary action to prevent and/or mitigate the risk of harm to patients due to violence by other patients.
- API does not consistently comply with AS 47.30.825(d) or 42 CFR §482.13(e) in the use of seclusion and restraint.
Based on a preponderance of the evidence collected in the course of the investigation, along with the surveys by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the workplace safety investigation by attorney Bill Evans, the Ombudsman found all three allegations are justified. The Ombudsman made recommendations for improvements in API operations to prevent violence toward patients and reduce the use of seclusion and restraint.
Read the executive summary of the report here.
Read the full public report of the investigation, findings, and recommendations here.
The Alaska State Ombudsman began partnering with libraries around the state in 2018, because libraries are where many people go for information, internet connection, and assistance. We connected with librarians and other library staff at the Alaska State Library Association (AKLA) Conference in Juneau this month. By providing our information and resources to local libraries, we hope to connect with more Alaskans and provide access to ombuds services when they have problems or complaints about state government. It’s also a great opportunity to meet folks from all over Alaska and talk about how the Ombudsman serves our communities.
Intake Assistant Richard Radford shares info and resources at AKLA Conference 2019
The Alaska State Ombudsman has concluded the investigation of a citizen complaint about how the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, within the Department of Natural Resources, investigated a crime reported on state park lands. The Ombudsman found that, while the park ranger had investigated the crime according to the training and direction given by the Division, that did not align with the express law enforcement policy adopted by the agency. The Ombudsman recommended that the Division update the law enforcement policy to better reflect the demands and expectations of park rangers as peace officers.
Read the press release.
Learn about the first national observance of Ombudsman Day, coming October 11, 2018 and the Alaska State Ombudsman’s autumn outreach events. Read the newsletter: Ombudsman Newsletter Fall 2018
The Anchorage office of the Alaska State Ombudsman will be closed August 24-31 while we move from our 4th Avenue location to the Anchorage Legislative Office Building at 1500 West Benson Boulevard.
One of the Alaska State Ombudsman’s goals is to provide welcoming, accessible, and safe environments for people to come for help with their problems. In 2017, we assessed our current office locations to determine whether they met this goal. They didn’t.
We spent several months this year soliciting for office space in Anchorage that would offer the public greater access in a safer, more comfortable environment. Then the Alaska Legislature invited us to move into the Legislative Building in Midtown Anchorage.
Unlike our downtown location, the Legislative Building has lots of free parking for visitors and on-site security. Even though this building is still being renovated, we are moving now because our office on 4th Avenue just can’t meet our needs anymore. The new location also saves quite a bit on rental costs.
It may take a while before we can settle into permanent space designed for ombudsman operations, but we are excited for the opportunity to eventually be more accessible to Alaskans. We hope you’ll be patient with us during this time.
Alaskans can make complaints by calling our intake team at 907.269.5290 Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. or anytime online through our website.
While we get settled in our new office, Anchorage area folks can meet with a member of the intake team by appointment only (to protect the confidentiality of complainants and investigations). Call 269-5290 to schedule a time to come in.
In Juneau, folks can come into the office (130 Seward Street, Suite 501) without an appointment Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.