After more than 27 years of providing 24 hour behavioral health services to our town, a series of funding reductions mean that Petersburg Mental Health Services cannot afford to continue providing the psychiatric emergency care and other services that we want for our community. We are working with the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) to shift services and staff to their larger organization on April 1, 2021. We have a mutual goal for clients to keep seeing the same provider, in the same office, with as little change as possible to them. To do that, SEARHC has offered employment to all PMHS providers. I am pleased with how SEARHC has worked collaboratively to keep our wonderful PMHS team in place as they expand behavioral health services beyond what we could afford to do.
This was a difficult decision to make. I moved back to Petersburg in 1993 just after graduating from college to start up a new local mental health center. It was my first job, and at the beginning it was just myself and a part time receptionist working out of a room in the hospital. It became the focus of my life for nearly three decades. In that time, we grew into a comprehensive behavioral health program that is seen as a model center in Alaska and has been called the behavioral health “jewel of southeast.” It has been the honor of my life to have been a part of this. I am proud of what we have built and grateful to work in a field I am passionate about, serving the hometown that I love. From my parents I was taught to try to leave the world a better place than how we found it. I hope in a small way I have done this through Petersburg Mental Health Services.
Thank you to all the people of Petersburg who trusted me as a newly minted social worker, even with the frequent challenge that we may have grown up together or that you might have been a previous teacher of mine. Few therapists have the remarkable experience to see four generations of one family during their career, and I can name several. Gratitude is not a debt, but I can’t help but feel like I owe a tremendous amount to each of you. I’ve learned so much.
This is not a merger of organizations. PMHS will retain a smaller office in our current building and continue as an active nonprofit working to make a difference in our town in new ways. We are not disappearing. We are simply shifting staff and the 24-hour behavioral health services responsibility from PMHS to SEARHC. I am excited to work with our amazing board members in the coming months to develop the next chapter for PMHS. It will be a new year of creativity, flexibility, partnership, and vision for PMHS.
The only way we could have done all we did for 27 years was with the help of the people in the schools, hospital, police department, ministerial association, and others. In many Alaskan communities there is division between agencies with “that’s not my job, that’s your job” positions being taken. Because of the faith and trust we had in each other, that didn’t happen here. I’m grateful how every organization worked with us. I so value the partnerships we’ve had and hope to continue with them in new ways in the future.
Mountainside Behavioral Health SEARHC Care Network will be located at our former offices at 100 Fram #2, across the street from the hospital business area parking lot. To reach them or to receive behavioral health services, please call their number, (907) 772-4963.
The Petersburg Mental Health Services office will be accessible from the back entrance of the building. Our phone remains (907) 772-3332.
Thank you, Petersburg. Susan Ohmer, LCSW
Petersburg Mental Health Services
"Doing Whatever Works" to support the needs and increase the quality of life of the people of Petersburg
Petersburg Mental Health Services is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, community based behavioral health organization dedicated since 1993 to providing behavioral health assistance and support to address needs and increase the quality of life of the people of Petersburg. We are committed to works that help the people of our community achieve wellness, personal growth, and quality of life in a safe and encouraging environment.