Challenges Of Mental Illness: Tell me who’s crazy… the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services!

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Black Comedy from our elected officials.

How about that Alaska Department of Health and $ocial $ervices! Long known as the most dysfunctional department in state government, DH$$ takes the largest part of the state budget, is run by social workers who want to help you, but often cannot balance their own checking accounts. I saw how screwed up this department is first-hand as a business agent for the Alaska State Employees Association, AFSCME Local 52, over 4-1/2 years in Juneau while my late wife, Cathy Liston, worked as a bank manager.

Now that Gov. Michael Dunleavy has managed to split the DH$$ baby, what more can we give it to do? His advisors must have told him the next great thing for DH$$ to tackle is Mental Illness. The pandemic is over and a department always in crisis needs new opportunity for it’s workers who want to help you. This is a growth industry in Alaska and the Alaska Mental Health Trust has a big pot of money.

Wish I could have told my friend, Mike, that crazy is in the eye of the beholder. I would have reminded Dear Teacher Governor that we are all born into this life with no idea of what is crazy or normal. We are TAUGHT what is normal by our family and the institutions meant to nurture us, while we learn crazy through our observations and experiences.

Crazy is 50 school districts producing the lowest academic outcomes in the United States over 40 years for an amount by which we should have been able to hire the BEST TEACHERS IN THE WORLD. That’s bat-shit crazy.

A more productive way to get our heads around crazy might be what has been called Black Comedy.[1]

Crazy is as Crazy Does

The Alaska Legislature has recently delved into Black Comedy with legislation proposed by Gov. Dunleavy to help identify and incarcerate those among us deemed suffering from mental illness by people who want to help you. Based on a tattle tale they will be able to arrest you without a court order and put you into new facilities that aren’t jails like they put criminals in—more like drunk tanks with lots more people who want to help you. This incarceration will be for our own good determined by workers I happen to know first-hand belong to perhaps the craziest of all 11 Alaska public sector state unions.[2]

This scenario is reminiscent of the 1941 classic play and movie Arsenic and Old Lace, staring Cary Grant. He plays Mortimer Brewster, a drama critic who must deal with his crazy murderous family with local police assistance in Brooklyn, New York. His two spinster aunts, Abby and Martha Brewster have taken to murdering lonely old men by poisoning them with home-made elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, and just a pinch of cyanide. The story line is delicious, the gags hilarious, as we learn 11 bodies have been buried in the cellar while another is waiting in the window box.

For our Alaska Legislature, all the bodies are buried in Juneau. Next election we will be expected to send these killers of our economy–who defy state law regarding the Permanent Fund Dividend–back to form coalitions to pass legislation containing poison pills diminishing regular Alaskans in favor of $pecial interest$.

In Arsenic and Old Lace the character most resembling Gov. Dunleavy is Mortimer’s brother, who psychotically believes he is President Theodore Roosevelt. He periodically bellows CHARGE! and throws one fist forward in an assault up the staircase, immolating his hero’s charge up San Juan Hill, during the Spanish-American War. Everybody humors Teddy, saluting him and telling him frequently how much ALL the other people also love him.

Frankly however, I am personally disappointed that lovable Gov. Dunleavy doesn’t know that as Alaskans we celebrate crazy:

We were all down at Margie’s bar

Telling stories if we had one

Someone fired the old jukebox up

The song sure was a sad one

A teardrop rolled down Bubba’s nose

From the pain the song was inflicting

And all at once he jumped to his feet

Just like somebody kicked him

Bubba shot the juke box last night

Said it played a sad song it made him cry

Went to his truck and got a forty five

Bubba shot the juke box last night

Alaska has been facing a mental Illness crisis for a long time. I submit its primary cause is something euphemistically referred to as “Recreational Drugs.” When Alaskans were being killed by the dozens annually from drinking and driving the numbers were reduced by legal/economic consequences for driving drunk. But with this new law we will have DH$$ people who want to help you empowered to arrest and detain without due process under the 5th Amendment.

No more Joe Voglers![3]

With this law our elected officials convening in North Seattle have renamed recurring stupid behavior Mental Illness. They think all Alaskans should pay instead of the people with the affliction. Gov. Teddy’s proposal–passed by both houses of the Alaska Legislature–will weaponize social workers by calling them Health Officers with full authority to take citizens into custody against their will, absent a judge, emergency court order, or representation if any such person is deemed to be “suffering from mental illness and likely to cause serious harm to yourself or others.”[4]

And, of course, this is going to be expensive, folks.[5][6]

Bubba ain’t never been accused of being mentality stable

So we did not draw an easy breath

Until he laid that colt on the table

He hung his head till the cops showed up

They dragged him right out of Margie’s

Told him “Don’t play dumb with us, son”

“Know damn well what the charge is.”

Bubba shot the juke box last night

Said it played a sad song it made him cry

Went to his truck and got a forty five

Bubba shot the juke box last night

My Own Difficult Mental Health Crisis

Cathy and I took a tour of the Capitol before heading back to Anchorage.

In July, 2017 the Oncologist said my wife of 29 years had Stage IV Lung Cancer and likely had 8-12 months to live. Our life immediately changed but we agreed we would not let the cancer stop us from active living. Having just retired from teaching, I took a session job in the 30th Alaska Legislature and we drove in January to the place we had first met, and married, and lived until returning to Anchorage in 2003, where in December Cathy had experienced the heart attack that made me her caregiver those last 15 years in Anchorage.

Rest stop above Haines Junction.

In Juneau, Cat was diagnosed in February 2018 with brain cancer. The lung cancer had metastasized. She received radiation treatment that further changed her mental capacity. We had one last glorious trip home to Anchorage after session before everything fell apart.

Cat’s daughter from a previous marriage had been fired from Kettering Hospital in Ohio and lost her RN certification for stealing drugs from patients. Cathy had previously told me she had stolen her own mother’s drugs. Everything now became a day-by-day crisis. The vultures were circling and occasionally landing to see if I was still fighting.

On the good side, our neighbors and church family started a meal delivery that I had to stop because we received so much from so many wonderful people. I appreciated that so much because real Alaskans take care of each other.

I struggled to maintain my wife in comfort in our home while her drug addicted daughter began a campaign from Ohio, calling the Anchorage Police Department for welfare checks on her. On one occasion as I brought two police officers to our bedroom Cathy said she didn’t want to see anybody. They entered anyway and found her resting comfortably with the 25 proscribed medications (including fentynal) all in order. They commented afterward that our mountainside home was a wonderful location for her to be.

In an extended soap opera of crisis and betrayal of my prerogatives as husband/caregiver of Cathy, I suffered most from the people who professed to NOT have mental illness. It has tested my own sanity and I believe I have made it this far only by God’s grace alone.

I was on the phone with a “crisis navigator” when my wife was facing a mental health crisis. The State of Alaska failed us.

For example: At one point Cathy determined she was going to walk the five miles to Walmart in her stocking feet carrying two bags of cleaning supplies. It was a nice summer day, I followed her in the truck urging her to get in, and finally was able to intercept her with the help of kind neighbors. Her doctor advised me to seek a court order requiring 24-hour evaluation at Alaska Psychiatric Institute, which I got after further evaluation. The police were supposed to pick her up then and take her there, but instead before it could happen her daughter showed up with APD escort at 1 am and took her away July 17, 2018.

That was the last time I saw Cathy. She was taken in defiance of a court order by someone residing thousands of miles away with true Mental Illness. When I tried to get my wife returned to her home in Alaska the court refused my request even though I had her Power of Attorney.

Well, the sheriff arrived with his bathrobe on

The confrontation was a tense one

Shook his head said, “Bubba Boy,”

“You was always a dense one.”

Reckless discharge of a gun

That’s what the officers are claiming

Bubba hollered, “Reckless! Hell!”

“I shot just where I was aiming.”

Bubba shot the juke box last night

Said it played a sad song it made him cry

Went to his truck and got a forty five

Bubba shot the juke box, stopped it with one shot

Cathy died February 24, 2019 and my crisis was just beginning. As a sober and productive senior I was vulnerable but I didn’t need any glorified social workers who want to help you, checking on me, asking about my guns, or even whether I might be experiencing exploitation from other people who also happen to also personally know Gov. Dunleavy.

I had enough to deal with.

As an independent and sober Alaskan of 60 years, no spinsters are going to kill me with wine but I have learned some hard lessons of my vulnerabilities even before Cat’s passing. Dunleavy’s new law is largely for people who want to increase the state budget with a new boondoggle to serve people who make bad choices at the expense of those of us who have mostly made good choices. Perhaps they will round up the homeless people under this law and give them more than the equilivant of their PFD in state services.

That’s a lot easier than tackling the crisis of government schools or drugs flowing freely into our state. And, when it comes to those who don’t ask the government for a damn thing except our full PFD, we have learned to NOT trust elected officials, the courts, or state employees–who are supposed to serve Alaskans–to give a damn about anybody but themselves.

Bubba shot the jukebox last night

Well he could not tell right from wrong

Through the teardrops in his eyes

Beyond a shadow of a doubt

It was justifiable homicide

Bubba shot the juke box, stopped it with one shot

Bubba shot the jukebox last night[7]

You shot yourself in the foot with this one, governor.


[1] Wikepedia: Black Comedy

Black comedy, also known as black humordark humordark comedymorbid humor, or gallows humor, is a style of comedy that makes light of subject matter that is generally considered taboo, particularly subjects that are normally considered serious or painful to discuss. Writers and comedians often use it as a tool for exploring vulgar issues by provoking discomfort, serious thought, and amusement for their audience. Thus, in fiction, for example, the term black comedy can also refer to a genre in which dark humor is a core component. Popular themes of the genre include death, crime, poverty, suicide, war, violence, terrorism, discrimination, disease, racism, sexism, and human sexuality.

[2]Gov. Dunleavy’s Transmittal Letter for SB 124

[3]Joe Voegler, Founder of the Alaska Independence Party

House Bill Could be Weaponized against healthy Alaskans, Robyn Rene’ Bjork, Alaska Watchman, 05/13/22

OPINION: House bill could be weaponized against mentally healthy Alaskans

[5]SB 124 “An Act relating to admission to and detention at a subacute mental health facility; establishing a definition for ‘subacute mental health facility’; establishing a definition for ‘crisis residential center’; relating to the definitions for ‘crisis stabilization center’; relating to the administration of psychotropic medication in a crisis situation; relating to licensed facilities; and providing for an effective date.”

[6]Identified Costs Fiscal Notes:

[1] ]Health & $ocial $ervices (04/12/21

[2]Health & $ocial $ervices (04/12/21)

[3]Public Safety (04/12/21)

[4]Health & $ocial $ervices Fiscal Note (04/15/22)

[5]Health & $ocial $ervices Fiscal Note (04/15/22)

[6]Alaska Public Safety Fiscal Note (04/15/22)

[7]Alaska Judiciary Fiscal Note (04/15/22)

[8] Alaska Department of Administration Fiscal Note (05/11/22)

[9]Alaska Judiciary Fiscal note

[10]Health & $ocial $ervices Fiscal Note(05/11/22)

[7]Bubba Shot the Jukebox” is a song written by Dennis Linde, and recorded by American country music singer Mark Chesnutt.

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5 thoughts on “Challenges Of Mental Illness: Tell me who’s crazy… the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services!”

  1. I am sorry for your loss and what you went through with your wife Donn. However you have misstated not only the problem of mental Illness in Alaska but the intent and effect of this legislation. Hopefully once it is implemented you will see the benefit of this approach to psychiatric crises over the incarceration and institutionalization Alaskans are subjected to now.

    1. You may hope for the best, but reality is that evil and stupid people will pervert even the most hopeful of policies in order to serve their own ego, greed, and selfish ambition; and to mask or cover-up their own lack of professional skill or competence. This is the natural state of things as they generally exist in any human system you choose to audit. We don’t need to assist these same people by making it easier for them to flex their social muscles by laying a paved runway in legislation from which to launch their dysfunction and criminal behaviors to even higher extremes. Critics of Mr. Liston’s prose who have not personally worked within one of these social systems of regulation and control, or who are fortunate enough not to have been a victim of it’s many abuses and abusers either lack candor, or simply do cannot make a legitimate or factually informed argument from which to defend the Governor and his lackies in the Legislature, bureaucracy and private sector. This is a bad law that should be struck down by the courts… but probably will not be.

  2. Andrew Brewer

    Good article Donn. Those in Gov’t are always looking to improve things. They have improved them so much at this point, people are literally dying from the level of care they receive for a flu like illness. Our rights, guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, no longer apply, well, because they say so ! It’s an Emergency ! Can’t you read the Mainstream Media ? Somehow most of us are now aware of what’s going on, and the Gov’t is in on it. Just follow the money… and watch as the body count continues to rise…

  3. Judith Ritenburgh

    The entire body of Alaskan legislators will go down in history as the most dysfunctional, lobbyist controlled, public ignoring, ignorant , self serving, confused group of humans to ever try to make a fair and equitable budget! If they were smart enough to make a budget based on the assets available without trying to protect unions, oil companies, state employees, billionaires, millionaires and their favorite corporations,———WE WOULD HAVE A BUDGET THAT DID NOT NEED TO STEAL THE PFD! REMEMBER FOR 40 YEARS THE STATE OF ALASKA HAD ETHICAL AND MORAL LEGISLATORS THAT RESPECTED THE CITIZENS AND LAWS THAT WERE PASSED AND SUPPORTED BY THE MAJORITY OF THE CITIZENS OF THIS STATE AT THE TIME! They were able to realistically look at options and choose to act accordingly!
    This state legislative body consistently lies to the people who voted for them!

    THERE IS NOT ONE SINGLE REASON WHY THE CURRENT LEGISLATORS CAN NOT VOTE TO RETURN THE PFD TO WHERE IT BELONGS. Walker pulled strings, bought judges, confused legislators and received a 7 figure bonus from oil companies by doing his illegal change!
    Where else in our constitution can a governor unilaterally undo a legal voted upon law. What else will the legislators decide to take from us?
    In 7 years families with six members have paid this state more than $20,000 for each person!
    In case you can’t multiply $20,000 x 7=$140 000.

    Whatever you want to call it, income tax, people tax, family tax, Alaska citizen tax, just because you are born, live and die in ALASKA tax, The state has stolen money from its citizens and continues to support the theft! JUST THINK WHAT ALASKAN CITIZENS WOULD BE ABLE TO DO WITH THEIR OWN MONEY RETURNED TO THEM AND NEVER AGAIN STOLEN!

    Someday there will be a class action lawsuit filed against this states entire budget and legislative branches, the people will prevail and the state will suffer the consequences of the years it used private investment money taken from a legal, protected with both language and intent, account owned by the citizens and not the government of Alaska!

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