This is the opening letter to our 2021 Community Impact Report from Julia Luey, Interim CEO and VP of Treatment Services. Click here to view the report and find links to our stories of impact.
Resiliency. It’s a word that has always been important to VOA Alaska’s mission and our approach to serving the youth and families in our care. But that word has taken on a more significant meaning in the second year of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
We have now experienced something unique: a shared trauma. While every individual experience is different, our staff, the youth and families in our care, our organization, our partners, our community, our world, are all, at some level, coping with similar challenges.
How we leaned into experience them together helped cultivate spaces of meaningful connection each of us needed this past year.
Near the end of 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory on the crisis we’re facing, stating, “The future wellbeing of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation. Especially in this moment, as we work to protect the health of Americans in the face of a new variant, we also need to focus on how we can emerge stronger on the other side.”
While it is disheartening to see the data and the advisory that warrants a call to action, it is affirming to read what we are doing at VOA Alaska is aligned with the Surgeon General’s recommendations.
We did not wait for the data to tell us there was a crisis on the horizon. We could see it and feel it ourselves as we worked alongside the incredibly resilient youth and young people in our great state.
If 2020 was a time to learn the impacts of the pandemic and find the strength and courage to respond, 2021 was the time to lean into our renewed resiliency. A time to be more than a responder. A time to anticipate, lay the groundwork, and get out ahead of the challenges we know are coming.
A few highlights of VOA Alaska’s work in 2021:
- Expanding access to mental health services and adding telehealth services to reach youth statewide.
- Expanding our School-Based Mental Health program by adding five additional schools to serve youth where they are at—our schools!
- Implementing rapid access to care strategies, so that those that call us are supported each step of the way—through consultations, same-day services, referral navigation, and immediate connection with our peer and family support staff.
- Expanding our Supportive Housing program and doubling our capacity to serve more vulnerable and at-risk houseless youth with evidence-based practices
- Expanding our Integrated Services program to include a Day Treatment level of care, which combines academic and therapeutic services to increase interventions for youth struggling with substance misuse and co-occurring mental health challenges.
We will remain intentional, determined, and flexible as we explore and implement innovative strategies to improve our service offerings and continuum of care – on the front lines, behind the scenes, and online!
Thank you for standing with us and for your continued support of Alaska’s youth and families.
Interim CEO & VP of Treatment Services