Public health nurses collaborate across divisions and programs on upstream prevention
The work done by Alaska’s public health nurses often reaches beyond immunizations and routine health care to include upstream prevention efforts aimed at protecting and strengthening whole communities.
This includes education on safe relationships, adverse childhood experiences, trauma, suicide prevention, safe alcohol use and substance misuse and addiction. Our public health nurses maintain strong relationships in the 280 Alaska communities they serve which helps them assist local leaders in these kinds of prevention efforts.
Their work aligns with and complements prevention work being done by the Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention (OSMAP) and the Division of Behavioral Health. DHSS is making strides in this administration to build bridges across programs and between divisions so DHSS can collaborate more effectively with communities across Alaska to help build resiliency and maintain the physical and mental health of all Alaskans.
One recent example is the outreach work done last month by our public health nurses as part of National Prevention Week, an annual observance hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to raise awareness about the importance of substance use prevention and positive mental health. Here are a few of the outreach events that took place as part of National Prevention Week (May 12-18):
- On Prince of Wales Island, public health nurses supported the work of the Prince of Wales Health Network Youth Leadership Program and the Prince of Wales Opioid and Addictions Task Force. Together they hosted a community recovery festival. The May 18 festival was the idea of 7th-12th-grade youth who meet 2-3 times a month to build leadership and resiliency skills and give back to their communities. Funding assistance was provided by the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA) Lead On Program and Recover Alaska.
- In Bethel, Public Health Nurse Donna Bean co-led a Youth Mental Health First Aid Training. The training increases community knowledge so people can recognize signs of mental health problems in youth and teens and know how to help them in both crisis and non-crisis situations.
- In Ketchikan, Public Health Nurse Lindsay Lamon participated in a radio interview about opioid prevention and also worked with local high schools to provide drug prevention information.
- In Homer, Public Health Nurse Lorne Carroll led a community exercise highlighting ways community members can help solve the opioid epidemic through prevention efforts.
- In Koliganek, Public Health Nurse Lucinda Zamir presented to the local village council about healthy relationships and safe alcohol use and to schools about consent, trusted adults and substance misuse.
This kind of work, along with Narcan distribution in coordination with OSMAP, is ongoing for our public health nurses. We can all look forward to increased collaboration across DHSS programs and divisions over time as our department continues to work on these important prevention efforts.