FEBRUARY 3, 2017
Rep. Tarr Helps Develop National Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Tool Kit
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As the purse strings of Alaska become ever tighter, the heart strings of our community- and compassion for others- need to strengthen.
There are Alaskans who struggle within themselves in ways we cannot fully understand. Sometimes their struggle is apparent. For others, it’s unseen. But how we can fully relate is as a neighbor, and as someone who cares about the wellbeing of all Alaskans.
Our need for assisting Alaskans comes at a time when the state is looking to reduce funding in all arenas of government. Less state funding means reducing beneficial resources like treatment centers and professional training, but Alaskans experiencing mental illness and substance use need these beneficial resources and professionals more than ever. Alaska does have to reduce its spending, but if we cut beneficial programs that assist others with treatment and recovery, our state will continue to experience the high costs associated with frequent emergency room visits, increased incarceration rates, and the negative impacts to family life and community wellbeing.
Alaska needs prevention. Alaska needs programs to help Alaskans who struggle with mental illness and substance use. We also need every community member to be ready to step up and help others in this fiscally challenging time, which leads me to this:
I am very excited to introduce you to a beneficial resource you can start using today: The Women in Government Foundation Mental Health and Substance Use Task Force Tool Kit.
Over the past year, I was honored to participate in a Mental Health and Substance Use Task Force sponsored by the national, non-partisan Women in Government Foundation. The work of the task force was to develop a tool kit of the best policy solutions from around the country and to help raise awareness of the mental health and substance use issues that impact over 60 million Americans. I believe this tool kit will be valuable for lawmakers, mental health professionals, and advocates in shaping good public policy based on the latest research and proven techniques.
We released the tool kit a couple weeks ago to coincide with the beginning of legislative sessions across the nation. The tool kit will help lawmakers and regulators around the country develop policies to help those dealing with mental health and substance use disorders. Also, I’m pleased to say I’ve been approached by a Senate colleague interested in learning more and identifying solutions that will work for Alaska.
Studies show that one in five Americans have a mental health condition but a majority of them will never receive treatment. Reasons include lack of insurance coverage, a lack of mental health professionals, and the unhealthy stigma that is sometimes attached to mental health issues. A recent Surgeon General’s report found that one in seven people will develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and over 27 million people report misusing illicit and prescription drugs.
Mental illness and substance use impact all Alaskans, whether it be to our family members, friends, neighbors, or the state’s budget. Alaska can and must do better. We must continue on the path to preventative care and treatment while strengthening our heart strings. Using the tool kit is a great way for you to start.
PS. Calling all pedestrians! The Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions (AMATS), in coordination with the Municipality of Anchorage and the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, is planning to rehabilitate a pedestrian pathway in the south side of Benson Boulevard between Minnesota Drive and Artic Boulevard. AMATS would like your public comment on the project, and will be hosting a community meeting on Wednesday, February 8th, 12pm at the Wells Fargo Alaska Heritage Museum. If you attend, please send me your feedback.