The sunshine showed up for us as we celebrated a massive win in breaking down barriers to care for youth accessing behavioral health services: the purchase of two minivans for VOA Alaska’s Outpatient Team to transport youth to and from services!
The search to find funding for vehicles began in 2021 with the launch of VOA’s Day Treatment program. We quickly identified transportation as a significant barrier to youth accessing services. Staff were utilizing personal vehicles to provide transportation, which presented multiple challenges, including increased wear and tear. Personal vehicles were often unavailable due to various individual and family needs, resulting in many shifts in programming to make transportation occur with another staff member.
Finding more VOA-owned vehicles became necessary for helping youth access services and reduce the burden on their families and program staff. Our team explored several options, including Medicaid-supported transportation services, public transportation, and working with families to get youth in. Medicaid’s transportation vouchers for youth require an immense amount of documentation and time spent arranging services, and they are not available for youth under 16 without an adult escort.
Our fundraising efforts launched with a generous grant from the Rasmuson Foundation. Then came another generous donation from GCI and several individual donations through our online Raise-a-Ride for Youth campaign.
On August 22, we held a small celebration to recognize our partners and commemorate removing transportation as a barrier to care for our youth!
Our Behavioral Health Associates and Counselors can now use the vans to transport clients to and from Day Treatment. Our Peer Support Specialists can now meet youth and young adults where they are in the community, in their homes, at school, in detention centers, or in the hospital. Our Case Managers can help clients access educational resources, medical resources, treatment or therapy, and other daily living skills-associated resources.
“We are truly grateful for the reduction in barriers we have experienced so far with these vans,” expresses Jamie Elkhill, Vice President of Operations. “They are an amazing gift.”
Each day, our teams see the impact of the mental health crisis on young Alaskans. To eliminate suffering, we must work together to continue breaking down barriers to care and expanding existing services to improve access.
We are incredibly thankful for the support of our generous partners at GCI and the Rasmuson Foundation, as well as community members Jami Bishop, Alexandro Cetina, Jose Luis Cetina, Carolyn Heyman, Lori Landenburger, Jane Luey, Julia Luey, Debra Rouse, and Sammy Sue, who stepped up to help VOA Raise a Ride for youth!