HEAD OF PSYCHIATRY GOES PUBLIC WITH ‘RESISTANCE’ LETTER
Dr. Anthony Blanford of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute says he not about to resign just because the incoming governor has asked for resignations from all at-will employees. He is an at-will employee of the State.
Blanford, who is a registered Democrat, decided to take his grievance public; he wrote a letter to the editor of the Anchorage Daily News.
Perhaps he should have slept on that letter. Blanford makes $313,000 in salary plus benefits for a total of $430,000 a year.
After all that has occurred at API in recent years under his watch, Blanford is not in the position to make the case to the public that he is indispensable. API has been in the news for its dangerous conditions, a longstanding problem made worse by Alaska’s increasingly violent mental health patients.
In fact, Blanford may have just proven a point of Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy’s Chief of Staff Tuckerman Babcock, who sent a letter out to all at-will employees, letting them know they need to submit their resignation and also let the new administration know if they want to continue serving in the Dunleavy Administration.
The Dunleavy Administration wants to know: Do you want to serve in a Dunleavy Administration?
Blanford just communicated that not only is he not on board, but he believes he is entitled to his job. He also said that his refusal to resign is a matter of principle and that he wants some sort of budget guarantee. Instead of seeing a new governor as an opportunity to make productive changes, Blanford has chosen to make demands of a person who has been elected but has not yet taken office.
Blanford’s letter follows:
It is not a secret that the mental health system is in crisis in Alaska, as it is much elsewhere in the U.S. Though the Alaska Psychiatric Institute is often the focus of criticism, it’s only the most visible agency statewide undergoing a severe crisis in mental health services.
As Director of Psychiatry at API, I have worked hard with many others to sustain a system that at this point appears unsustainable unless adequate support and funding is forthcoming from the Dunleavy administration.
I am also an exempt employee of the state of Alaska, but I will not be offering my resignation. Whereas it might seem like a simple matter to offer my resignation with the likelihood of being retained, this symbolic gesture of deference doesn’t settle well with me.
I can’t say I’m in favor of further cuts and hiring freezes, because that’s not what’s needed at API at this time, and that’s the only plan I’ve heard so far. If API is not allowed to move forward with plans already in place, the crisis will continue or get worse. Politics have already cut deeply into our ability to care for the mentally ill.
The state of Alaska hired me for my expertise, not my political allegiance. My moral allegiance is to the mentally ill and the staff who care for them. There has been progress, but not nearly enough and not fast enough, with the state often getting in its own way. I would like to continue as Director of Psychiatry at API because I believe there are feasible and fiscally responsible ways improve API and our state mental health system, but I would also like to know first if the incoming administration is invested in making this happen.