Yes, Soteria-Alaska is closing. And its sister organization, CHOICES, Inc., has lost its way. As the person who conceived of both of these and got them going, I have some thoughts that might be worthwhile about what went wrong; what should or might have been done differently; and most importantly, what lessons might have been learned.
Soteria-Alaska, a program modeled after the highly effective Soteria developed in the 1970s by the late Loren Mosher, M.D., opened its doors in 2009. It is also impossible to convey the actual simplicity which in fact is the crowning jewel of the Soteria approach. A conservative review of the effectiveness of the Soteria approach revealed that it is at least as effective as traditional hospital-based treatment — without the use of antipsychotic medication as the primary treatment. Considering that people treated in the conventional way die on average 25 years younger than the general population, this is a substantial finding.
If people who work in mainstream biological psychiatry are willing to consider referring people in severe psychiatric crises to a program that operates under both a completely alternative philosophy and model to their own, then I see hope for our world’s mental health system. If our local psychiatric emergency room is willing to refer to a program like ours, then other psychiatric emergency rooms elsewhere in the United States and the world must be willing at least to consider doing the same. For this reason, I do not feel like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. I feel the system can change.