Representative Geran Tarr

June 6, 2014 

Mental & Physical Health

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)

In your life, you are more likely to see a person having a panic attack than you are to see someone having a heart attack. Though many of us know how to properly respond to a heart attack, few of us know what to do when confronted with someone having mental or emotional crises.   A community based model called Mental Health First Aid is being used across the nation and world to teach people how to address a person in crisis by training a person a five step process for response.  Mental Health First Aid does not replace emergency care; instead it is intended to be used by a first responder before medical care arrives.

This session, I introduced House Bill 355, Youth Mental Health First Aid.  The bill would establish a Youth MHFA training program in the Department of Health and Social Services.  MHFA trainees would learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health problems in persons under 18 and how to provide initial aid before guiding a person toward appropriate professional help.

Creating an environment where people know how to properly respond to these situations is a small step towards treating Alaska’s problems with suicide, addiction, and abuse. 

Rep. Ben Nageak speaking at the Mental Health First Aid Lunch & Learn, with Jill Ramsey, Training Coordinator at the UAA Center for Human Development, Rep. Tarr, and Rep. Hughes.
Rep. Ben Nageak speaking at the Mental Health First Aid Lunch & Learn, with Jill Ramsey,  Training Coordinator at the UAA Center for Human Development, Rep. Tarr, and Rep. Hughes.

Visitors from the Traumatic Brain Injury Network visiting with Rep. Tarr in Juneau while advocating for services.
Visitors from the Traumatic Brain Injury Network visiting with Rep. Tarr in Juneau while advocating for services.


Alaska has the highest suicide rate per capita in the country, at almost twice the national rate. Between 2000 and 2009, there was at least one suicide in 176 different Alaskan communities.  Additionally, Alaska Native men between the ages of 15-24 have the highest rate of suicide among all demographics in the United States.  Yet, 90% of suicide victims have a diagnosable, treatable mental or substance abuse disorder.

MHFA was introduced to the United States in 2008 and since then over 50,000 state and municipal employees, clergy members, police officers, and citizens have been trained in 47 states and the District of Columbia. Citizen training ultimately saves municipalities money because it has a side effect of reducing how much people with disorders consume fire and police department time, as well as emergency room costs.

We worked with the Mental Health Trust Training Collaborative to offer a Mental Health First Aid training in Juneau this winter.  Watch for an announcement for a summer training in Anchorage.

Let’s Move! Initiative

I've joined Assemblywoman Elvi Gray-Jackson  and her effort to have Anchorage named a "Let's Move' city.  First Lady Michelle Obama began the Let’s Move! Initiative as a comprehensive plan to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic.  The goal of the initiative is to give parents helpful information about leading healthier lives and creating environments that support a healthy lifestyle.  There are numerous programs within the initiative, such as Chefs Move to School, a program that pairs chefs with schools across the country to work with staff in creating a healthy lunch menu and even to set aside gardening space on campuses.

The Let’s Move! Cities, Towns, & Counties program promotes local participation in the initiative by pursuing five goals within the city, town, or county.  These goals are:

1.       Start Early, Start Smart: provide children in early care and education settings with a healthy start.
2.      My Plate, Your Place: display MyPlate meal guidelines in city- and county-owned venues that serve food.
3.      Smart Servings for Students: increase participation in school breakfast and lunch programs.
4.      Model Food Service: adopt healthy food service guidelines at city- and county-owned venues.
5.      Active Kids at Play: take steps to promote physical activity.

Participating communities are recognized by awarding bronze, silver, and gold medals for achieving goal benchmarks.  Both Barrow and Anchorage are already on their way to creating healthier communities, along with hundreds of other localities.  Some of our schools are already benefiting from the free healthy meal programs, such as Airport Heights, Mountain View, Russian Jack, Wonder Park, Williwaw, and Tyson Elementary Schools, as well as Clark Middle School, and the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School.

Check out the Let’s Move! Website here and get healthier today!

Get Out & Play, Every Day

In case you haven’t heard, United Way and the State are partnering in a public awareness campaign to let citizens know about the Healthy Futures Challenge and fun facts, such as the link between physical activity and success in schools.  It has already been shown that nutrition and fitness lead to improved health, with side effects including increased school attendance, better performance, and higher attention levels.

Visit their website here and check out some of their YouTube videos here.

Kids in the Kitchen, Parent & Child Cooking Class

This year, parents and 5th and 6th grade students at Tyson and Williwaw Elementary School got to participate in an amazing three week program.  The Kids in the Kitchen Parent & Child Cooking Class teaches parents and students how to create a fast, delicious, and healthy family meal together.  Guest chefs taught families about nutrition, cooking tools, cooking basics, and shopping to replace unhealthy pantry items.  Families even got to meet a real, live Chef Celebrity!

These great classes were offered in 9 Anchorage schools thanks to United Way, ASD School Nurses, Alaska Kidney Foundation, Volunteer Celebrity Chefs, and local businesses.  Participation and program accomplishments will be reviewed this summer in the hopes that we can have this program again, in even more of our schools.

Going Camping?  Be Prepared for a Fee Increase

We live in one of the most beautiful states in the country and are lucky to have many places within walking, biking, and driving distance to hike, picnic, and camp.  Most state trails have easy parking for $5 right at the trailhead and the cost goes straight to maintaining the trail.   Our public cabins are also an option.  More information about state parks and state cabins, including information about whether certain cabins are subject to a $5-$10 cost increases this summer, is available on the Alaska State Parks website.  Check it out & get outside!

Don’t Forget!

Neighborworks is holding the Dave Rose Park Clean-Up, where volunteers can help beautify the park by picking up trash, removing graffiti, and landscaping.  The Clean-Up will be held from 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Friday, June 13, 2014.


signed: Geran Tarr
Representative Geran Tarr



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