API privatization draws protest from union employees
It's been a month since Gov. Mike Dunleavy turned over administration of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) to a private, for-profit company, but opposition to that move continues.
Dozen of protesters, including employees, gathered outside API Saturday morning. They objected to the state contract received by Tennessee-based Wellpath Recovery Solutions.
"Because that takes away jobs from our state workers, and the jobs that they're taking away and privatizing out to this source, is not going to be taking care of our patients here at API," said Alaska State Employees Association Local 52 President Dawn Bundick. Her organization organized the rally.
Wellpath will be paid $1 million per month by the state to run API.
Dunleavy cited widespread agreement that API wasn't managed well in his February decision, adding that the change was intended to make the institute a facility that would benefit its patients.
An independent investigation of API last September highlighted various deficiencies, including unsafe working conditions and insufficient staffing. Last week, the state ombudsman's office found allegations regarding abuse at API "justified" after months of investigation.
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