A convening to change life in the 49th State
- Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority
- Mat-Su Health Foundation
- Providence Health & Services Alaska
- Rasmuson Foundation
- Southcentral Foundation
- State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
- University of Alaska Anchorage
Recover Alaska core funding partners
“Think beyond this time,” Foundation Chairman Ed Rasmuson urged more than a decade ago. Think bigger than grants for health clinics or domestic violence shelters, as vital as they are. How could we transform life in Alaska?
As a Superior Court judge in Anchorage, Morgan Christen dealt with alcohol’s destructive wake. Sexual assault. Broken families. Murder. She also was a Foundation board member, and the chairman’s message resonated. She thought about a landscape architect who designed some of the world’s greatest gardens knowing he wouldn’t be around to see them fully matured. Maybe a long view approach would work for Alaska’s deep-rooted alcohol crisis.
“This isn’t the kind of problem that can be solved by money,” she said. “It's much more complicated than that. I thought that's exactly why Rasmuson had to be the one to take it on. … What it does better than anyone is convening people.”
For two days in June 2009, the Foundation gathered 20 Alaska leaders in Talkeetna. More convenings followed. So began Recover Alaska, an initiative to reduce the harm caused by alcohol through public health messaging, policy changes and a shift in social norms around drinking.
“Our power really lies in our connections,” said Recover Alaska executive director Tiffany Hall. Legislators, judges, public health officials, tribal leaders and nonprofit directors work together for system change. In a video series called “Day 001,” people including Hall tell of getting sober. One Alaskan watched a video, took a screening test, and got into treatment. Partnerships with news organizations have produced award-winning journalism on solutions. In rural villages, kids have rallied against bootleggers.
A concert last fall featured mocktails, Anchorage band Medium Build and the hashtag #wildlysober. Band lead vocalist Nick Carpenter said Recover Alaska shows how to live life without the mask of booze. The last day of 2017, he quit drinking. “It challenges people to have to relate on something other than their shared love of alcohol, which then provides deeper connections,” Carpenter said. His life and art are better in every way, “professionally, emotionally, mentally, physically,” he says.
Public health campaigns can alter behavior, said Christen, who is now a federal appellate judge. People used to smoke cigarettes in hospital rooms. Almost no one wore seatbelts.
“It’s a generational shift,” she said of Recover Alaska’s mission. “But it can be done.”
- Collaboration. Together we are stronger.
- Respect. Affirming every person’s inherent worth.
- Change. Working together we can impact the wellbeing of Alaska.