Access Center first point of contact at Fairbanks

As a counselor in Fairbanks’ Access Center, Stephanie Kurrus, MSW, LSW, is part of the organization’s front line.

Access is the department where patients are initially assessed for treatment at Fairbanks. Appointments can be scheduled between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday by calling 800-225-4673. Walk-ins are also available on a limited basis.

Kurrus says there isn’t really a typical day in Access. That’s one aspect she loves about her job.

“You never know what the day’s going to bring you,” said Kurrus, who started at Fairbanks as an intern while in grad school. “Some days can be kind of crazy, some days really quiet.”

Kurrus, Stephanie

That can make it almost impossible to create much of a schedule.

“But the nice thing about Access is we work as a team and communicate well,” Kurrus said. “We know who’s doing what and who needs help, and work together to get everything done.”

An assessment can take 30 minutes to an hour or more. If a patient is using insurance to pay for treatment, the process can include a process that insurance companies refer to as “precertification.” This can be a lengthy process in some cases, and they can never pre-certify until after clinical information is obtained in the assessment. Self-pay and payment plans are also available, as is financial assistance. More information is available on Fairbanks’ website at

“We do our best to advocate for the client and get them the treatment they need,” Kurrus said, adding Access has lower-cost and state-funded referrals for patients who are unable to afford treatment at Fairbanks.

The primary diagnosis for any prospective patient at Fairbanks must be substance abuse. Treatment at Fairbanks can often address secondary or tertiary diagnoses.

“A lot of our patients also have some form of anxiety or depression, which we can help with,” Kurrus said. “If it’s a more severe mental issue, like an eating disorder, we often can’t treat it and have to refer them elsewhere.”

Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Kurrus sees all ages and demographics come through the Access Center. The causes of addiction are narrower.

“Alcohol is still one of the primary substances we treat, but there’s been a huge rise in opiate use as well,” Kurrus said.

Being one of the initial contacts at Fairbanks means counselors like Kurrus don’t often get to see the results of their work with patients. But when they do, it can make a tough job easier.

“Sometimes we’ll have patients who come back through,” Kurrus said. “I’ve seen some volunteering in other parts of the hospital. It’s nice being able to see the difference treatment made in their lives.”

Indeed, while Kurrus and other Access Center counselors and managers often see people at one of the lowest points in their lives, being part of the catalyst for recovery makes the job worthwhile.

“It feels great that you can really make a difference in helping someone who’s struggling,” Kurrus said.