ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE RANKED BY COMMUNITY AS MAT-SU’S GREATEST HEALTH CHALLENGE17-Sep-2013
Wasilla, Alaska — Mat-Su Health Foundation recently completed an extensive assessment of the community’s health needs. After analyzing volumes of data, including research commissioned especially for this study, and hearing from more than 500 people at 23 community meetings and via an online portal, the majority of the community ranked alcohol and substance abuse as the most serious health problem facing the Mat-Su. The next-highest ranked concern was child and youth abuse and violence.
“The Mat-Su Community Health Needs Assessment took us on a fascinating journey,” said MSHF Executive Director Elizabeth Ripley. “Over the last 18 months, we dialogued with as many people as possible in order to ensure that our report accurately reflected what the community sees as its major health issues. The power to solve big problems grows from the strength of a community coming together to solve them, and this health needs assessment process reinforced how much Mat-Su people care about working together to create a healthier, happier community.”
The community meetings were held throughout the Mat-Su Borough. Some were targeted to specific groups
– for example, emergency responders, school nurses, business leaders and government officials. Other meetings were open to the general public and held in communities from Talkeetna to Sutton. A dedicated website was launched to invite feedback from those who could not attend a meeting in person.
“Now that the community has spoken and identified its highest priority health issues, Mat-Su Health Foundation will work to provide leadership and funding to address the most pressing concerns: improving access for children and adults to mental health care and substance abuse treatment and preventing childhood trauma,” said Ripley. “Our Board of Directors decided last year that the Foundation could be most effective by concentrating its work in several major focus areas. The first focus area selected was Healthy Seniors, and our work there is well under way. Now we are adding Behavioral Health and Childhood Trauma as foci and beginning the process to work with community partners to improve treatment and prevention efforts
here in Mat-Su.”
In addition to ranking heath issues, participants in the community meetings were also asked to rank goals for health in the Mat-Su. The top health issues and goals identified by the community were all related to behavioral health:
Top Health Issues
• Alcohol and substance abuse
• Child abuse and violence
• Access to mental health care*
• Depression and suicide*
• Domestic Violence and sexual assault*
Top Health Goals
• Children are safe and well-cared for
• All Mat-Su residents are drug free and either sober or drink responsibly
• All Mat-Su residents are able to find, access and benefit from health care
• All Mat-Su residents are able to find, access and benefit from mental health care*
• We live in a violence-free community*
• We all have healthy relationships*
(The last three health issues and health goals tied for the number of votes received when ranked by the community.)
The full 164-page Mat-Su Community Health Needs Assessment as well as an Executive Summary and details of how the community ranked health issues and goals have been published on the Foundation’s website at www.heathymatsu.org.
“A project of this magnitude needs a lot of support,” said Ripley. “We are grateful to our partners who offered insight and expertise as part of the health needs assessment, and also to those that provided funding.” Contributors to the project included the following: Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority; BP Alaska; Chickaloon Village Traditional Council; Denali Commission; Knik Tribal Council; Mat-Su Agency Partnership; Mat-Su Borough; Mat-Su Borough School District; Mat-Su Coalition of Senior Centers; Mat- Su Health Services; Mat-Su Public Health; Mat-Su Regional Medical Center; Providence Health and Services Alaska; Rasmuson Foundation; State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services; Southcentral Foundation; Sunshine Community Health Center; United Way of Mat-Su; and, Valley Charities, Inc.
About Mat-Su Health Foundation: Mat-Su Health Foundation (MSHF) is the official business name of Valley Hospital Association, Inc., which shares ownership in Mat-Su Regional Medical Center. In this capacity, the MSHF board members and representatives actively participate in the governance of Mat-Su’s community hospital and protect the community’s interest in this important healthcare institution through board oversight. The MSHF invests its assets into charitable works that improve the health and wellness of Alaskans living in Mat-Su. More information is available at www.healthymatsu.org.