Alaska Mental Health Trust
Putting resources back into the community The Fort Knox gold mine pays royalties for gold it extracts from Alaska Mental Health Trust land.
By Tracy Kalytiak
atelyn Schnell’s life hasn’t been an easy one. Incidents of abuse scarred her childhood from the age of 8, but no one seemed to notice, no one offered help. Her own mother didn’t believe her. Schnell, at 13, found solace in a drink of Jack Daniel’s whiskey someone offered her, and drank alcohol or used drugs just about every day of the following 22 years. “I found it took my sadness away,” she said. “I self-medicated the emotional pain I was suffering through. I believe I was born with this disease. It was on full-force from the moment I took my first drink. I would drink until I blacked out and it didn’t stop until I went to treatment.” Alcohol, crystal meth and cocaine propelled Schnell’s life. She desperately wanted help but thought she couldn’t afford it. The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority provided the lifeline Schnell needed, funding programs that
helped her build a life free of alcohol and drugs. “Back then I didn’t know it was Trust money, didn’t know where the money came from,” Schnell said. I would have gone to treatment sooner. I didn’t know there was money allotted for people like me.” The Alaska Mental Health Trust is a perpetual trust originally formed in 1956, before Alaska became a state, when the United States Congress set aside 1 million acres of land with the purpose of using income from it to pay for mental health services. About 65 percent of the land ended up in the hands of municipalities and individuals until the mid 1990s, when a 1982 lawsuit reconstituted the 1 million acres and created the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, a state corporation that has since administered and used income from the land. Income from the land is only a portion of Trust income. The greatest portion comes from the Trust’s invest-
Photos courtesy of the Alaska Mental Health Trust unless otherwise noted
ments in the Alaska Permanent Fund. The seed money for this fund was $200 million in cash from the settlement of the 1982 lawsuit. Since inception, the Trust fund at the permanent fund has grown to about $450 million, including deposits from the Trust’s land management efforts.
Similar to private foundations, the Trust uses a payout system based on prior years’ income that determines how much is available to spend each year. Annually, the Trust’s operating budget is approximately $26 million to financially infuse programs helping people who are mentally ill, homeless or addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Trust funding also supports people with developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, and traumatic brain injury. The Trust operates like a private foundation: The governor appoints members of the Trust’s board of trustees
www.akbizmag.com • Alaska Business Monthly • April 2012
Published on Apr 1, 2012
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