People who experience a mental health crisis need immediate attention; one place they can find it is at Providence Hospital in Anchorage, where it operates the only psychiatric emergency department in Anchorage.

Director Kimberly Pettit said people in crisis can get a psychiatric evaluation there day or night.

"It's what we call a risk assessment," said Pettit. "We are really trying to determine, what does the patient need? What level of care do they need? Do they need to go to out-patient services or is this a candidate for in-patient service?"

Pettit said a psychiatric evaluation can take anywhere from one to three hours. The idea, she said, is to get people in but also to get them out.

"Our goal is to get folks from Providence to the next best place, and hopefully, that's home with some resources in the community," she said.

Ideally, people should come to the emergency room when they are in danger of hurting themselves or others, but Pettit said people who are experiencing depression or anxiety that is debilitating could benefit as well. She advised people in doubt, to call the mental health crisis line at 563-3200, which operates 24 hours a day.

"If you aren't sure if you should actually come to the ER you can certainly call the crisis line and get some brief intervention just over the phone," Pettit said. "We can provide additional resources that way as well."

Another place to find resources is at the Anchorage office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI.

The NAMI office can provide mental health resources

"We might not have or provide that actual resource but we will help you find it," said director Jason Lessard, who said people could call the office at 272-0227.

NAMI doesn't provide treatment services but it does offer peer-led support groups for both people experiencing mental illness and their families. More information can be found on the organization's website.

"Whether it's family or friends, that immediate circle around somebody is going to be crucial for their recovery and their support," he said.

Lessard said the Alaska Careline at 877-266-HELP is a crisis line for someone considering suicide or those who have questions about suicide. He said the 211 number operated by United Way can also direct Alaskans to local resources.

But if the person in crisis is violent or has a weapon, it's best to call 911. Lessard recommends people ask for a CIT officer, short for Crisis Intervention Team. Officers on the team have been trained to work with people dealing with mental health issues.

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