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Mat-Su Crisis Response Team Receives Bert Hall Award for Community Health Commitment

by | Jun 12, 2024 | Featured, Healthcare, News, Nonprofits

Bert Hall (seated, center) with representatives from the Mat-Su Crisis Response Team and Mat-Su Health Foundation.

Mat-Su Health Foundation

“It’s so beneficial to our community, I can’t even begin to describe it,” says Alaska State Troopers Commander Captain Andrew Gorn of the Mat-Su Crisis Response Team. On Monday, the team received the Bert Hall Award from the Mat-Su Health Foundation for its work in improving the health of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Answering the Call

Gorn, whose troopers are an active part of the response team, says when officers respond to a call and it’s a “high utilizer,” someone who is known by responding officers because he or she has been the subject of multiple calls over time, the response can be challenging.

“We have jail and we have the emergency department,” he says.

But the Crisis Response Team provides more options, opening doors to substance abuse treatment facilities such as True North Recovery, or Daybreak, Inc., which helps individuals with diagnosed mental health illnesses.

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“I can’t tell you how important it is to be able to phone a friend,” Gorn says. “This whole process is… making the State Troopers more effective and more efficient.”

“They are truly making Mat-Su a better, more compassionate and healthier place to live,” notes Elizabeth Ripley, president and CEO of Mat-Su Health Foundation.

“This co-response model has yielded positive results for both the first responders and service providers,” Ripley notes. “But more importantly, this change in how our system supports community members has delivered better outcomes for individuals who are experiencing perhaps the worst day of their lives—all by getting them connected to services other than jail or the emergency department.”

The co-response model has been incorporated into the 911 dispatch system at Matcom and Palmer Dispatch Center, the two dispatch centers that serve Mat-Su. In the last year, the crisis team has served more than 200 people experiencing a behavioral health emergency in Mat-Su.

The service doesn’t stop at the 911 call and response. The Crisis Response Team developed a post-crisis system of several different connector agencies, to which first responders can refer clients after the event related to the initial 911 call has been de-escalated. The connector agencies help navigate and coordinate care for behavioral health clients as they move toward appropriate care, reducing the chance they will have to rely on 911 in the future.

The members of the Mat-Su Crisis Response team are: 

  • Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority
  • Alaska State Troopers
  • Alaska Youth and Family Network
  • Actionable Data Consulting 
  • Daybreak, Inc.
  • Emergency Medical Services, Mat-Su Borough
  • LINKS Resource Center
  • Matcom 911 Dispatch
  • Palmer Dispatch Center
  • Palmer Police Department
  • True North Recovery
  • Wasilla Police Department

Their work is supported by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Mat-Su Health Foundation, and several community and government agencies. 

Mat-Su Health Foundation is an evolved version of Valley Hospital Association, which operated Valley Hospital in Palmer. As the community grew, Valley Hospital Association recognized the need to build a larger, more advanced hospital to meet the needs of the community. It partnered with a private healthcare provider to build Mat-Su Regional Medical Center and, as part owner, guides the medical center’s operations and shares in the hospital’s profits through a unique nonprofit/for-profit arrangement. A portion of the revenue has, since 2006, been used to improve the health of Mat-Su residents. In 2023, 176 grants totaling $14.9 million were distributed to organizations across Mat-Su. 

The Bert Hall Award, or “Bertie,” is an annual recognition of an individual or organization that has consistently exemplified its commitment to working at the systems level to improve the health and wellness of Mat-Su residents. It was created in 2013 in honor of Mat-Su resident Bert Hall, who has spent much of his life working to make improvements in health and human services and quality of life for veterans and for Mat-Su residents as a whole.

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