Substance abuse programs, Office of Children’s Services get boost in funding

DHSS logo
Among Governor Bill Walker’s list of vetoes yesterday is what looks like $6.5 million in cuts to the Department of Health and Social Services. One is slated for substance abuse treatment pilot programs. Another for children’s services. But here’s the catch — even with those cuts, the department will still be getting extra money for those services next year.

Download Audio

When setting the FY17 budget, the Legislature included some additional funds over FY16. Eleven million dollars were added to create new substance abuse treatment programs around the state, like detox centers and residential treatment programs. Division of Behavioral Health Director Randall Burns said he was still happy even when the governor cut that down to $6 million.

“I think any additional funding that the legislature and the governor are willing to provide for new substance abuse services in Alaskan communities is very positive news,” Burns said in a phone interview.

The Office of Children’s Services will see a positive boost as well. The legislature had given OCS an additional $2.3 million on top of their regular budget for two purposes: preventative programs that help families work through problems and stay together, and reunification programs to help restore families if kids are put into foster care. $1.7 million of that money will stay in the budget.

“They’re really all funds to help supplement and enhance what the OCS caseworker is doing and oftentimes, with the high workload, isn’t able to do as much as we’d like to do,” explained OCS Director Christy Lawton. “So these services really help to accelerate services we can offer.” She said she was grateful that most of the money remained in the budget.

The funding will be used to expand current programs and try innovative strategies.

The $1 million cut to child care benefits is a reduction from the current budget, but the department does not see it impacting services. There is not a wait list for child care assistance.

Anne Hillman is the healthy communities editor at Alaska Public Media and a host of Hometown, Alaska. Reach her at Read more about Anne here.

Previous articleTLMP amendment draft decision announced
Next articleKodiak Spaceport lands big customer