Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced a “People First” initiative, which will be also be part of his 2023 budget that will be rolled out on Wednesday.
People First involves major investments in Alaska State Troopers, village public safety officers, ending human trafficking, support for foster care, and more.
The various initiatives inside the program will involve statutory changes, budget expenditures, staffing additions, and administrative actions, with an initial cost of $750,000 and annual operating cost of $250,000. It rolls together existing programs such as Choose Respect with new efforts to reduce crimes against women.
“Safety and prevention are my administration’s top priorities, ever since I took office,” Dunleavy said. “My administration has been focused on reversing these troubling trends and statistics – we are proud to say that progress has been made.”
Alaska’s crime rate has declined for two years in a row since Dunleavy signed the repeal of Senate Bill 91 through House Bill 49.
“By adding major crime investigators in Bethel, Dillingham, Kotzebue, and Nome, clearing the backlog of sexual assault examination kits, collecting owed DNA, and increasing funding for the Tribal Compact with OCS, we are going to see a change happen in Alaska. But there’s still more work to be done,” he said.
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
The Dunleavy Administration will offer several statutory changes in an omnibus crime bill in January, when the Legislature meets:
- addressing repeated violations of protective orders
- expanding the definition of serious physical injury and elevating the level of offense
- expanding the crimes considered to be domestic violence
- providing bail notice to victims
The administration will seek $500,000 for the Alaska Family Justice Center feasibility study and implementation of a pilot program. The “Through One Door” comprehensive concept will assist victims with forensic and medical services, legal assistance, child/adult therapy, case management, legal aid, emergency housing/shelter assistance, and family assistance and resources.
The pilot program will have all victim services provided in one location in coordination with health and safety partners and agencies.
“The People First Initiative equips the Department of Law with the resources and support needed to help victims, bring perpetrators to justice and protect all Alaskans,” said Attorney General Treg Taylor. “This comprehensive effort will strengthen the work we’re already doing to make this state a better, safer place.”
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons
Dunleavy will create an Administrative Order that will form the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Council. In the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, we will seek funding for two Tribal Liaison positions within the Department of Public Safety and one position for the Missing Persons Clearinghouse.
“The Alaska Department of Public Safety and the Alaska State Troopers are committed to meeting our mission of ensuring public safety and enforcing fishing and hunting laws across Alaska,” said Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell. “Public safety is job number one for the Dunleavy Administration, and this new initiative is evidence of that. These additional resources to address the high rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, human sex trafficking, MMIP, and other important issues impacting Alaskans are welcomed in our efforts to make Alaska a safer place to live, work, and raise a family.”
Statutory changes regarding human trafficking will be in an omnibus crime bill that will clearly define human and sex trafficking. The bill will require that sex trafficking is a registerable sex offense. It will allow victims of sex trafficking to have their record expunged. Dunleavy will be issuing an Administrative Order reestablishing a task force focused on human and sex trafficking. In addition, law enforcing will be increasing officer training to recognize signs of trafficking and interceptions.
Foster Care and Office of Children’s Services
Dunleavy is taking steps to review the entire foster care system and focus on prevention to reduce the number of kids in foster care programs in the state, including a new Parent and Foster Parent Collaborative Council. As of this month, 3,027 Alaskan children are in the Office of Children’s Services’ care through foster parents. The administration will address transitioning programs for older foster youth, providing vocational opportunities and extended subsidies up to the age of 21. Demonstration projects with tribal partners will help establish evidence-based best practices that qualify for future federal funding opportunities and recognize Native cultural practices. The administration will focus on workforce stabilization aspects, such as pay and retention, adding a workforce wellness unit, a long-term, non-permanent supervisor unit, and increasing social service associates.
In coordination with the statewide database, the administration will establish a Statewide Homelessness Coordinator in the Office of the Governor and add a data manager position at Health and Social Services. Dunleavy will issue a new Administrative Order focused on reshaping the Alaska Council on the Homeless.
“Alaska has long struggled to address these issues, and this is long overdue,” Dunleavy said. “Through collaboration between public, private, nonprofit and tribal partners, we can achieve these goals to put people first and make Alaska a better place for everyone.”
The overall budget rollout on Wednesday will see reductions overall, Dunleavy said. But the initiative will cost millions of dollars that will come from savings over in the past couple of years.
He said “the State can’t control everything but the state should be involved in the safety of its people, the safety of its kids, and the safety of its most vulnerable.”