Discusses health and social service issues
July 31, 2004
"I appreciated the opportunity to discuss issues critical to Alaska's healthcare system with Secretary Thompson during his trip to Alaska," said Murkowski. "The state Department of Health and Social Services has a positive working relationship with the secretary and his staff. We greatly appreciate the secretary's willingness to visit Alaska and get to know its unique conditions. He has made several trips to Alaska during his tenure, and Alaskans have benefited because of his efforts."
Thompson has been traveling in Alaska to promote healthy lifestyles and to announce grants to Alaska programs. The trip is his fourth to Alaska in the last 3 ? years and included stops in Anchorage, Homer, Dillingham, Seldovia, Kake and Juneau.
In addition to discussing Medicaid issues, Murkowski also updated Thompson on the state's efforts to bring home Alaska youths currently receiving residential psychiatric treatment center services in the Lower 48.
The "Bring the Kids Home" program is an initiative to return children sent out of state for residential psychiatric treatment to in-state residential or community-based care, and to divert future children from such placements. Almost 500 Alaska children receive these residential services outside of Alaska. The DHSS efforts through this program would keep families connected to children and involved in their treatment and assist children in transitioning successfully out of residential care.
The Governor also updated Thompson on Alaska's Co-occurring Incentive Grant to provide coordinated services to individuals with substance abuse and mental health problems. DHSS recognized that substance abuse and mental health problems cannot be addressed as separate issues for an individual. The department applied for and received a federal grant to develop and enhance infrastructure to increase capacity to provide coordinated services to these clients.
The Governor raised reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program with the secretary, as an issue with a unique impact on Alaska. Reauthorization has the potential to have positive impacts for Alaskans, provided that the seasonal nature of Alaska's economy, the state's rural character and limited employment opportunities are addressed.
Secretary Thompson and the Governor also discussed the state's tribal and regional partnerships with Alaska Native regional non-profits, grant funding for core public health preparedness for bioterrorism, funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, DHSS's Traumatic Brain Injury program and the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant.
"We have a lot going on in the Department of Health and Social Services," Murkowski said. "It was heartening to share the good news about these programs with the secretary. We are making progress in ensuring a healthier Alaska.
"When issues arise between the state and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is gratifying to have a partner in the secretary who is willing to sit down at the table and work them out. Secretary Thompson is a good friend of Alaska."
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