Screenshot of Maria Hernandez, Assistant Principal, Benny Benson
Screenshot of Maria Hernandez, Assistant Principal of Benny Benson Alternative School. Benson is one of the Anchorage schools with an embedded VOA Alaska mental health clinician.
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School-Based Services Help Break Barriers to Care

VOA Alaska’s May 2021 Newsletter. To receive this newsletter and other updates directly to your inbox, sign up here.

Did you know 80% of youth with mental health diagnoses have unmet needs? At VOA Alaska, we strive to meet the needs of every child, teen, and young adult that walks through our door. But we also know many barriers exist, from lack of transportation to cultural stigmas, that can prevent a youth in need from reaching our office. Our solution? School-based mental health.

“School-based services meet clients at the source of their daily stressors and frustrations providing immediate, intentional, and meaningful interventions,” says Julie Falle, a VOA Alaska mental health clinician based at Tyson Elementary. 

Across the country, decades of research show that schools are our communities’ primary site for reaching youth to provide consistent, accessible behavioral health and wellbeing services. That’s why VOA Alaska, through a partnership with the Anchorage School District and Providence Alaska, is providing mental health services directly within schools at additional expanded sites.

Beginning in 2015, the program now provides services and support within nine Anchorage schools, as well as a district-wide referral pathway for students to enter VOA Alaska services. Our embedded mental health clinicians become a part of the school environment. They integrate behavioral health and wellness and provide a safe place for students to seek help that is just down the hallway from where they already spend much of their time.

Watch our staff and partners discuss the impact and benefits of school-based services. This video was the highlight of last month’s Virtual Spring Social!

“It’s the best kind of feeling when you can partner with a client to initiate real change in real time with real situations as an integrated member of the school community,” Julie says. “It is the most natural form of therapy that I have ever participated in. I only wish every community had school based mental health services!”

Untreated mental health challenges can cause a lifetime of unnecessary pain and suffering. Worse yet, they can result in death. Alaska’s teenage suicide rate are the highest in the nation, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among Alaskan teens. Half of all lifetime case of mental illness begin by age 14—intervening early is critical to saving lives.

VOA Alaska, together with Providence and ASD, is rising to this challenge in service of our community’s children.


Virtual Spring Social Fundraiser Raised Over $49,000!

April 29th we hosted a virtual fundraiser to support essential mental health services for Alaska’s youth, with a particular focus on our school-based services. As students returned to school after almost a year of online distance learning, the demand for additional resources and support grew. As life returns to “normal,” the impact of the pandemic will be a continued challenge for us all to face together.

Thank you to all our partners and donors for supporting VOA Alaska and essential services for youth in our community.


Photo of the Month – Kinship Program Delivers Mother’s Day Flowers to Caregivers

To celebrate the incredible caregivers in our Kinship Family Program, staff delivered geraniums to 36 families in Anchorage and Mat-Su. These caregivers are raising grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and other young family members. VOA’s Kinship Family Program is a one-of-a-kind statewide program providing resources and support for Alaskans caring for family members’ children.


ICYMI: Centering on our “Why” – 2020 Community Impact Report

In case you missed it: In our 2020 Community Impact Report, learn how VOA Alaska rose to the challenges the past year presented us, read stories of real impact from each of our programs, and learn how we served, and will continue to serve, Alaska’s youth and families. 

“This year presented both the need and the opportunity to be fearless, facing the depth of unknown. During this time, we sought clarity over certainty, centering on our ‘why’ in a year that tested us. Whatever this next year holds for us, whatever youth need from us, we will continue showing up for them…The challenge and opportunity in front of us is to come back collectively stronger. Thank you for standing with us through this past year and thank you for your continued support of Alaskan youth and families.” – Sherrie Wilson Hinshaw, President & CEO, VOA Alaska


This Month’s Sponsor Spotlight

ConocoPhillips Alaska Logo

Thank you to ConocoPhillips Alaska for matching $10,000 in donations during our Virtual Spring Social! Their match helped us raise over $49,000 to support essential mental health services for youth. ConocoPhillips is committed to helping improve the quality of life in the communities where they live and work, and we are honored they have chosen us as one of their worthy causes. Thank you, ConocoPhillips Alaska!

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Two VOA Alaska staff at a table during an outdoor event

2020 Community Impact Report

2020 presented both the need and the opportunity to be fearless. During this time, we sought clarity over certainty, centering on our “why” in a year that tested us.

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