(Anchorage) – The Governor of Alaska Mike Dunleavy, last week launched the People First Initiative to address several public safety issues facing Alaska. There will be five major intersecting topics, including:
- Domestic violence and sexual assault
- Missing & Murdered Indigenous Persons
- Human/sex trafficking
- Foster care
These issues are a grouping of standalone initiatives – each contains a mix of statutory changes, budget increments, staffing additions and administrative actions.
“Safety and prevention are my administration’s top priorities, ever since I took office,” said Governor Dunleavy. “My administration has been focused on reversing these troubling trends and statistics – we are proud to say that progress has been made. Our crime rate has declined for two years in a row since the repeal of Senate Bill 91 and the passing of House Bill 49. By adding major crime investigators in Bethel, Dillingham, Kotzebue and Nome, clearing the backlog of sexual assault examination kits, collecting owed DNA, and increasing funding for the Tribal Compact with OCS, we are going to see a change happen in Alaska. But there’s still more work to be done.”
One key component of the People First Initiative is the acquisition of a statewide database and management system. The new data system is long overdue, would be statewide and interoperable by multiple disciplinary stakeholders. The current system needs to be modernized by increasing capacity and addressing the rate of growth statewide. This new system will allow for ease of use for authorized providers and grant administrators to spot patterns and identify root causes within homelessness, trafficking and MMIP. The authorized users will be able to monitor the efficacy of prevention and outreach efforts with the new database. The upfront cost of the system is $750,000 with an annual operating cost of $250,000, with partners investing in the system.
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
The Dunleavy Administration will be proposing several statutory changes in an omnibus crime bill:
- addressing repeated violations of protective orders
- expanding the definition of serious physical injury and elevating the level of offense
- expanding the crimes considered to be domestic violence
- providing bail notice to victims
Alaska Family Justice Center Pilot Program
The administration will seek $500,000 for the Alaska Family Justice Center feasibility study and implementation of the pilot program – this “Through One Door” comprehensive concept will assist victims with forensic and medical services, legal assistance, child/adult therapy, case management, legal aid, emergency housing/shelter assistance, and family assistance and resources. It will have all victim services provided in one safe location through coordination with health and safety partners and agencies.
“The People First Initiative equips the Department of Law with the resources and support needed to help victims, bring perpetrators to justice and protect all Alaskans,” said Attorney General Treg Taylor. “This comprehensive effort will strengthen the work we’re already doing to make this state a better, safer place.”
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons
Governor Dunleavy will create an Administrative Order that will form the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Council. In the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, we will seek funding for two Tribal Liaison positions within the Department of Public Safety and one position for the Missing Persons Clearinghouse.
“The Alaska Department of Public Safety and the Alaska State Troopers are committed to meeting our mission of ensuring public safety and enforcing fishing and hunting laws across Alaska,” stated Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell. “Public safety is job number one for the Dunleavy Administration, and this new initiative is evidence of that. These additional resources to address the high rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, human sex trafficking, MMIP, and other important issues impacting Alaskans are welcomed in our efforts to make Alaska a safer place to live, work, and raise a family.”
There will be statutory changes regarding human trafficking in the omnibus crime bill that will clearly define human and sex trafficking. The bill will require that sex trafficking is a registerable sex offense registerable offense and it will allow victims of sex trafficking to expunge their record. Furthermore, Governor Dunleavy will be issuing an Administrative Order reestablishing a task force focused on human and sex trafficking. In addition, law enforcing will be increasing officer training to recognize signs of trafficking and interceptions.
Foster Care and Office of Children’s Services
Governor Dunleavy is taking steps to review the entire foster care system and focus on prevention to reduce the number of kids in foster care programs in the state, including a new Parent and Foster Parent Collaborative Council. As of December 2021, there are 3,027 Alaskan children in the Office of Children’s Services’ care. The administration will address transitioning programs for older foster youth, providing vocational opportunities and extended subsidies up to the age of 21. There will be the implementation of demonstration projects with tribal partners to establish evidence-based best practices that qualify for future federal funding opportunities and recognize Native cultural practices. The administration will focus on workforce stabilization aspects, such as pay and retention, adding a Workforce Wellness Unit, a long-term, non-permanent Supervisor Unit, and increasing Social Service Associates.
In coordination with the statewide database, the administration will establish a Statewide Homelessness Coordinator in the Office of the Governor and add a data manager position at Health and Social Services. Governor Dunleavy will be issuing a new Administrative Order focused on reshaping the Alaska Council on the Homeless.
“Alaska has long struggled to address these issues, and this is long overdue,” Governor Dunleavy said. “Through collaboration between public, private, nonprofit and tribal partners, we can achieve these goals to put people first and make Alaska a better place for everyone.”
- Read Administrative Order No. 327, establishing the Alaska Council on the Homeless, here.
- Read Administrative Order No. 328, establishing the Governor’s Council on Human and Sex Trafficking, here.
- Read Administrative Order No. 329, establishing the first Governor’s Council on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons, here.
- Read Administrative Order No. 330, establishing the Governor’s Parent/Foster Parent Collaborative Council, here.
- For those who are interested in serving, apply online at www.boards.alaska.gov/apply