The proposed Unguwat Resilience & Connection (URC) project will serve (1) Alaska Native and American Indian (AN/AI) youth ages 18-24 in the Anchorage, Alaska region, and (2) Anchorage area mental health, substance use treatment and other social services providers who serve youth of all races and ethnicities in this age range. Over five years the Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC), a qualified Urban Indian Organization, will utilize evidence-based culturally-reflective interventions to prevent suicide, reduce the impact of mental health and substance use disorders, and to reduce and respond to the impact of trauma in our diverse AN/AI community. ANHC will additionally coordinate collaboration among Anchorage agencies supporting transitional age youth, leading the development of a provider peer education network, an interagency policy development project, and a multi-year mental health training initiative for providers, all informed by Indigenous approaches and values.
ANHC is an educational and cultural institution in Anchorage, Alaska, serving for over 20 years as a resource for the wellness of our people by sharing the heritage of Alaska’s diverse Indigenous cultures and promoting participation in our living traditions. In partnering with both of Anchorage’s college campuses, this project targets AN/AI youth relocating from rural, predominantly Alaska Native communities to the state’s largest urban area to pursue their education, job training, and employment goals. Two youth-serving substance use and co-occurring mental health disorder treatment providers are committed project partners as well.
A profound need exists for innovative, Indigenous-led prevention efforts in Anchorage targeting transitional age youth and young adults. This is a critically underserved high-need subpopulation which faces gaps in developmentally appropriate programming––both to build cultural connections and to decrease the likelihood of suicide and substance misuse––available in the settings where they will most easily encounter and continuously access such programs. ANHC will use SAMHSA funds to support suicide and substance misuse prevention efforts drawing on AN/AI community knowledge and priorities, and developed using the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine Preventing Mental, Emotional & Behavioral Disorders Among Youth.
The project will achieve 11 objectives stemming from three goals: (1) Create the internal and interagency policies, procedures, and protocols necessary to respond effectively to youth suicide, suicide attempts, and mental health needs related to heightened suicide risk, (2) Implement culturally reflective mental health awareness training for providers serving transitional age AN/AI youth, and (3) Implement community substance misuse prevention strategies that are