In 1979, the members of the Downtown Community Council opposed having the Alaska Women’s Aid In Crisis shelter built in their neighborhood – as a founder, I argued that this treatment facility would be a “good neighbor” and tried to allay baseless neighborhood fears by creating understanding that abused women come from all neighborhoods and all socio-economic levels, and that providing this service would be a great benefit to the community. AWAIC has been well-run and proved to be an asset to the neighborhood.
We have all been touched by the tragedy of alcohol and drug abuse which can lead to mental health issues, and to unemployment and homelessness. One in four Alaskans face the devastating debilitation from alcoholism and drug addiction. Our alcoholic/addict populations span all socioeconomic levels, from panhandler to doctor, and the disease drains families and communities with increased crime and homelessness.
Further, with the legalization of recreational marijuana we naively focused on tax revenue. Now easy access damages our children – studies show marijuana has more negative impact on teenage cognitive development than alcohol, creates mental health issues like psychosis, depression and anxiety, leads to poor educational outcomes, greater welfare dependence and unemployment. We need juvenile residential addiction treatment – currently, we offer mental health treatment costing as much as $4,000 per day.
Putting the needed treatment center in the Golden Lion commercial building and closing its bar means a potentially safer neighborhood, freer from drunk drivers. A health care facility is an asset to the neighborhood, and our city, particularly if provides care for our teens – particularly if it meets insurance standards so that our state does not incur the huge cost of sending residents out of state; particularly if it provides vital employment counseling to help create taxpaying citizens. It is time to get past fears and take this positive step for our community.
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