Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Open house on Health & Social Services board

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Tuesday, May 15, 2007

PALMER—Would the formation of a Health and Social Services Board be beneficial to residents of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough? A Mayor's Blue Ribbon Task Force is trying to get public opinion on the idea at an open house on May 24.

For the past nine months, the volunteer group has been researching how other agencies and governments address health and social issues and identifying issues that affect MAT-SU residents. It is commonly known that the MAT-SU has been strained by substance abuse, particularly the use of methamphetamine, over the past ten years. However, the MAT-SU community is working to address a number of health and social service issues that go beyond "meth."

Among them:

  • In the MAT-SU, case workers for the state Office of Childrens Services manage 28 to 33 cases for families per year, well above the national recommendation of 12 to 14 cases per year.
  • The waiting list to receive some services for Alaskans with development al disabilities, such as housing, respite, and employment assistance, has more than a 1,000 individuals on it, some of whom have been on the list for 10 years. 200 of those individuals are MAT-SU residents.
  • The Juvenile Assessment Center, a nonprofit program that connects youth with the professional help they need for drug and alcohol problems and defiant behavior, is in jeopardy of losing funding. The Program is the only one of its kind in the MAT-SU. It provides free assessments for youth, removing a significant barrier for parents who might be struggling financially.

MAT-SU Mayor Curt Menard has seen an apparent need for the work the task force is conducting.

"Obviously the drug issues here drew my concern, with "meth" rising to the top, but also the limitations on accessing health care worry me, especially lately for seniors," Menard said.

The Open House is 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Borough building, 350 E. Dahlia Ave. in Palmer, in the lower level conference room next to Assembly chambers.

For more information call Borough Planner Lauren Kruer at 745-9855.