Mat-Su Agencies Create Multidisciplinary Team to Eliminate Gaps in Response to Drug-Endangered Children and Their Families

Wasilla AK – Members of the newly created Mat-Su Valley Drug Endangered Multidisciplinary Team (DEC-MDT) hosted a celebration and signing party Friday, April 1 in Wasilla. The event formalized the DEC-MDT with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding and interagency protocols. The first of its kind in Alaska, the DEC-MDT will improve the ability of the State of Alaska, Mat-Su Borough, local tribes, and social service agencies to coordinate interventions and improve the collective response to children and families affected by substance misuse in the borough.

“Child abuse and neglect is a community problem, and the Office of Children’s Services works with our community partners to make Alaska’s children safer and families stronger. This project in the Mat-Su Valley is a great example of a community coming together and creating a solution to help children experiencing neglect or abuse as a result of parental substance abuse. It is our community wrapping their arms around families and saying, ‘We got you!’” said Virginia Moring, Protective Services Manager 2, Office of Children’s Services.

The project began in 2018 with the award of a Department of Justice grant to Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC). That grant ended and R.O.C.K. (Raising Our Children with Kindness) Mat-Su is now providing support for continuation of the project. Over the three-year life of the CITC grant, institutional and community stakeholders, including individuals with lived experience, held a series of meetings, focus groups, and workgroups aimed at identifying gaps in how cases involving drug-endangered children were handled. These groups identified a need for increased interagency communication, training, improved understanding of agency roles, and a consistent definition of drug-endangered children as necessary components to improving system response and reducing further trauma to children and their families.

The DEC-MDT, which includes first responders and social service agencies, was created to fulfill those needs and help close these gaps. Together DEC-MDT members created the MOU and interagency protocols that outline a process for assessing and responding to drug-related calls where children are present in the home. The MOU delineates each agency’s roles and responsibilities in working with and responding to this population. The interagency protocol outlines how cases involving drug-endangered children will be handled, including dispatching social service agencies to the home soon after a drug-related encounter with law enforcement to provide necessary support services and interventions to children and their families.

DEC-MDT members include the Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Youth and Family Network, Chickaloon Village Traditional Council, The Children’s Place, Knik Tribe, Mat-Su Borough School District, Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, Office of Children’s Services, Palmer Police Department, Set Free Alaska, State of Alaska Department of Law Attorney General’s Office Civil Division, State of Alaska Department of Law Palmer District Attorney’s Office and Wasilla Police Department.

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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, MSHF board members and representatives actively participate in the governance of Mat-Su’s community hospital to protect the community’s interest in this important healthcare institution. The MSHF mission is to improve the health and wellness of Alaskans living in the Mat-Su and the tools it uses include grantmaking, convening of local partners, and policy change. The foundation’s work has resulted in significant improvements in systems that support the health of Mat-Su residents in areas such as behavioral health, child welfare, crisis response, community connections, workforce development, transportation, housing, and senior services. More information is available at healthymatsu.org.

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