In 2005, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority celebrated their tenth anniversary and wanted to recognize the accomplishments of the organization and its people through a historical documentation project. The Mental Health Trust settlement went on for many years. It was a complicated case of selecting land and fighting over funding that consumed the lives of the participants, but was relatively unknown by most Alaskans. This project is an attempt to explain the details of and increase awareness about the story behind delivery of Alaska's mental health programs and services to meet the needs of this special community of individuals. We wish to share the experiences of some of the people who devoted much of their lives to improving these services and fought many of the subsequent legal and political battles. It was a long-fought effort that took its toll on many people, but in the end laid an important foundation for better public understanding of mental illness and improved mental health services in Alaska.
The Mental Health Trust History Project Jukebox offers insight into the long struggle to provide quality mental health services in Alaska from the perspective of people who participated. There is discussion about how the mentally ill were treated prior to Statehood when they were sent to Morningside Hospital in Portland, Oregon; how in 1956 Alaska was given one million acres to manage in trust to fund mental health services; a 1982 lawsuit against the State for mismanagement of these lands and funds; the lengthy legal, political, and legislative effort to settle this lawsuit by re-constituting the lands, providing a cash settlement, and creating the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.
The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority has a terrific write up about the history of the organization. You can also learn more about the history, by downloading this video presented by Chief Executive Officer Jeff Jessee. Lisa Morris of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections and Archives at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks researched archival collections throughout the United States looking for Mental Health Trust related materials and compiled a resource guide for future researchers.