Gathering with Purpose: Supporting Behavioral Health in Alaska

Amid rising needs, Hazelden Betty Ford and University of Alaska-Anchorage collaborate on educational event lifting up culturally responsive approaches to healing work
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (May 6, 2022) – Alaska is experiencing ever-increasing rates of substance use disorders, trauma, anxiety and stress, emotional challenges and other mental health conditions—and that truth has inspired the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the University of Alaska-Anchorage to co-host an all-day educational summit for healing professionals.

"Gathering with a Purpose: Supporting Behavioral Health in Alaska" will explore vital insights and best practices for professionals committed to helping more people overcome behavioral health challenges, which have been escalating for years and were heightened further by the COVID-19 pandemic. The event will take place Friday, May 20, at the University of Alaska-Anchorage in Anchorage.

"As behavioral health professionals, we have much to learn from and with one another if we are to break down barriers and biases, and open more doors to health, connection and happiness for more people," said Stephen Delisi, MD, the event's keynote speaker and medical director with Hazelden Betty Ford's enterprise solutions division.

Dr. Delisi's keynote will focus on adverse childhood experiences (ACES) and the intersection of trauma and substance use. Other sessions will highlight the prevalence and risks of fentanyl and how treatment must adapt; the Native model of wellness; cultural conversations in rural and tribal health care; and emotional freedom techniques.

Presenters include:

  • John Solomon—an alum of the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies; the director of Behavioral Health for Maniilaq Association, a tribal health organization serving the Northwest Arctic borough of Alaska; and an executive board member of the Alaska Tribal Behavioral Health Directors;
  • Gregory Cagle and Dolores Van Bourgondien, addiction medicine providers from Ideal Option;
  • Tim Esterly, program coordinator with the state of Alaska's Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention;
  • Daisy VanSlyke and Heidi Christensen, clinical and peer recovery leaders, respectively, with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council;
  • Christopher Wightman, outpatient services clinical director with Southcentral Foundation's Behavioral Health Division; and
  • Michael DeMolina, therapist, consultant and trainer with Wisdom Traditions Counseling.

"Mental and emotional health, and substance use, are important topics affecting everyone either directly or indirectly," Dr. Delisi said. "Now, on the tail of the pandemic, even more people are struggling, and I'm grateful we have this opportunity to come together and share insights about bringing hope and healing to more people."

The event is open to the public. For attendees who work in behavioral health, the event also offers five continuing education (CE) hours. It is presented by Hazelden Betty Ford—the nation's leading nonprofit system of substance use disorder treatment, mental health care, recovery resources and related prevention and education services—in conjunction with the Counseling and Health Department of the University of Alaska-Anchorage. The $29 registration fee includes lunch, parking, continental breakfast and gift.

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As the nation's leading nonprofit provider of comprehensive inpatient and outpatient addiction and mental health care for adults and youth, the Foundation has treatment centers and telehealth services nationwide as well as a network of collaborators throughout health care. Through charitable support and a commitment to innovation, the Foundation is able to continually enhance care, research, programs and services, and help more people. With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in its services and throughout the organization, which also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction.