Unalaska and Sand Point residents will soon have the option of receiving substance abuse treatment from home.
People from the Aleutian Islands have always had to leave the region for recovery. But starting Aug. 1, they'll have another choice.
"The idea is that folks can stay in the community, gain or maintain employment, and learn the skills of recovery right where they’d be using them," said Dr. Keri Boyd.
Boyd is a behavioral health coordinator for Awakuxtxin, the new intensive outpatient program offered by the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association and Eastern Aleutian Tribes.
"The name translates to 'working together' in Unangam Tunuu," she said. "What that really means is: This is hard work. Recovery is hard work."
Boyd said the program will provide an option between full-time residential treatment and regular outpatient therapy, which might happen once a week.
"Sometimes it's a short period of time when someone has a moment of clarity — or a moment when they’re just ready," she said. "Now, they have something they can to turn to, which they didn't have before."
The 12-week program will connect participants in Unalaska and Sand Point for group sessions via telephone and video conferencing. They'll come together for nine hours each week, in addition to working with individual counselors.
Awakuxtxin will also supplement therapy with cultural and community activities.
"That could look like attending culture camp or being involved in a subsistence activity, which is also considered a source of income," said Cheri Johansen, another program coordinator. "Maybe finding a mentor in the community, or being involved in tribal activities."
While the program is currently limited to Unalaska and Sand Point, organizers will evaluate it after an 18-month pilot period and consider expanding around the region.
Supported by grant funding from the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, and the City of Unalaska, Awakuxtxin is tapping existing local providers to keep expenses low and the program sustainable.
Unalaska and Sand Point residents interested in joining the program should contact their local clinic. Participants can apply for a sliding insurance rate through their tribal nonprofits or Medicaid, as well as pay with private insurance.