The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused increased stress and anxiety on the residents of the Yukon Kuskokwim (Y-K) Delta in southwest Alaska. With over 85% of our residents Alaska Native it is critical our suicide prevention and behavioral health programs provide culturally responsive services to the population. Combining our traditional Yup’ik Eskimo wellness program, Calricaraq, and our western-based behavioral health (BH) clinical services, we are able to respond to BH emergencies and provide follow up treatment services that connect with our clients, meeting them where they are culturally and emotionally.
The Y-K Delta region in southwest Alaska is home to 58 Federally recognized Tribal communities, more than 10% of the 566 Federally recognized Tribes in the entire United States. Our region is in a very rural setting where no road system exists, and air travel is the standard method of transportation. At 75,000 square miles in size, our region’s land area is larger than Oklahoma, the 19th largest state, and our 27,000 residents, in which almost every community is over 90% Alaska Native, makes this region one of the highest concentrations of indigenous Native Americans in Alaska or the Lower 48 states. For the purposes of this proposal the population of focus to be served are individuals 25 years of age and older who are at risk for suicide and suicide ideation. During the increased stress, anxiety and depression associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic, these individuals are at increased risk for suicide. In addition, individuals without previous BH diagnoses experiencing acute stress and anxiety as a result of the Pandemic are also at risk, and this project will also target these individuals.
Through the COVID-19 ERSP Project our goals and objectives remain much the same as the standard of care we provide to our clients. This includes a milieu of traditional Indigenous wellness services through our Calricaraq Program in partnership with our western clinical treatment methods. Clients have a choice to utilize one or the other, or both, and services may include such modalities as motivational interviewing and family systems therapy. Measurable objectives include tracking BH Emergency Services (ES) admissions, monitoring utilization of BH treatment services for those diagnosed with depression and anxiety and patient satisfaction as a result of these life-saving services. We anticipate at minimum we will serve 150 clients.
The greatest risk we are currently facing, however, is the inability to pay for these services. During this Pandemic our 3rd party/Medicaid revenue has decreased by 90% over the past 3 months. This has put our BH ES department at risk for layoffs and furloughs resulting in a decrease in available services for suicide prevention. The funding provided by the COVID-19 ERSP program will ensure our BH ES department will remain funded and able to continue to provide these life-saving services so important to our families and communities who continue to suffer greatly from the effects of suicide.