This pamphlet is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of Alaska's young children, prenatal through age 8, by creating a comprehensive, collaborative initiative to ensure our collective energies address the critical outcomes and strategies that will support and improve the lives of Alaska's children and families and also that will help us gauge our progress. This booklet articulates many of the challenges faced by children and their families today and identifies outcomes and strategies which, if accomplished, could significantly improve the lives of many children.
In July 2000, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), in partnership with the Alaska Mental Health Board and the Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, embarked on a project to identify problems and barriers associated with improving care to persons with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder diagnoses. Although delivery of treatment services to this special population has long been a problem, there was a renewed and heightened emphasis placed on the issue beginning in 1999. For the current project, the DHSS Commissioner convened a steering committee to investigate issues related to delivery of services to persons with co-occurring disorders and to make recommendations for improving services.
For many years, health and human services professionals have urged complilation of a department history within the context of evolving health and human services in Alaska. This publication was prepared in response to those requests. It reviews broad issues and events, highlighting their contribution to health and social services in our state.
A myriad of catastrophic health, social, and economic problems resultant from underage drinking has impacted Alaska's youth. In 2000, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division
of Juvenile Justice, sponsored an assessment of underage drinking in Alaska. Investigators examined statewide efforts and data and conducted more detailed inquiries by interviewing 203 key informants from 17 rural and urban sample communities. The consequences of underage drinking in Alaska are reflected in an increase in the number of alcohol-related accidents among youth requiring hospitalization of 66.3 percent between 1991 and 1998. Over this period, Alaska averaged 30 suicide attempts annually among youth where alcohol was a factor. The cost of underage drinking to the citizens of Alaska was $317 million in 2005, inclusive of medical care, work loss, and pain and suffering. This is equivalent to $3,944 per year for each youth in the State. Based on these figures, per capita, Alaska is second among the fifty states for the cost of underage drinking.