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Youth Summit Coordinates Services For Kids

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As many as 200 teenagers in Interior Alaska are defined as homeless – they do not sleep in their own beds in a family home. Some are at risk for drug abuse or assault. Agencies working to keep youths safe, fed, sober and guided toward finishing school met Tuesday at a youth summit.

About 70 people in a downtown hotel ballroom are listening to a mental health counselor talk about teen self esteem and countering bullying. Her talk was followed by a review of “The Door” Fairbanks’ overnight shelter for homeless youth. Then a presentation on how teens go through the court system if they are arrested for a crime. Before that was advice on how generational trauma puts kids at risk.

Amanda Fontana works in Youth and Young Adult Services for Fairbanks Native Association. She pulled agencies together from across Fairbanks to share expertise and make connections at this day-long meeting.

“As a community, these organizations can get together, and really collaborate (with) what we have to offer our youth and young adults.”

The professionals in the room are counselors, medical and legal providers, case workers and therapists. Some are from state agencies, but most are from non-profits, that run on grant funding. Each organization has a specific mission, and sometimes that means services have limits.

Kimberly Britton is an opioid specialist for the Fairbanks Wellness Coalition. She works with youths aged 12 to 18. She says agencies can overcome those service limits by meeting together to fill the gaps.

“All these resources could be put into one area where youths can just find it and have access to everything. I feel like every organization has the same drive and the same purpose, and I think we could help our youth and our community feel more united and connected.”

Nathan Brisbois (Bris-boy) works for North Star Behavioral Health. His organization serves children as young as age four up to 18 and runs a 200-bed facility in Anchorage. He appreciates the trust that comes with meeting other professionals face-to-face, especially when dealing with vulnerable children.

“Because we get a large number of kids that come from the Interior to us, then are returning to the Interior. So, having those connections, to make sure that we’re connecting kids with the best possible continuation of care.”

This is the second annual summit organized by Fairbanks Native Association, which has several programs for teen sobriety, drug abuse prevention, cultural support for suicide prevention and others.

Amanda Fontana would like teens to get the same message of hope from all these providers.

“There’s help out there. There’s programs out there who truly do care about their well-being. And we want them to know that we’re a community, and together, we can achieve greatness.”