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Being the quintessential example of a frontier state, Alaska faces unique challenges in attracting a workforce through recruiting from other areas of the country. It is not uncommon for someone who has been wooed for many months to arrive in the state and decide not long after stepping off the plane that the new surroundings simply don't fit.
So five years ago, behavioral health leaders attending a summit conference made a momentous decision: They would essentially stop looking outside the state to build the rural mental health workforce the state needs, and would embark instead on an aggressive strategy to "grow from within." What has resulted from this, although the effort is far from being finished, is what one consultant to the project calls the most comprehensive investment in rural workforce development in the nation.
"The rates of under-service in rural communities have not changed over a 45-year period," Dennis Mohatt, vice president for behavioral health at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, told MHW. "We continue to use workforce strategies that aren't largely successful. ... …