This is in response to the April 28 Peninsula Clarion news article regarding a reported budget cut in the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Juvenile Justice program for nonsecure shelter beds.
The Division of Juvenile Justice uses the nonsecure shelter beds as a resource in Kenai for detaining youths for whom a parent or legal guardian cannot immediately be located. The Division of Juvenile Justice is keenly aware of the need for lower cost alternatives to secure detention beds. The Kenai "holdover beds" have served as an important resource for many years, benefiting youths, families, local law enforcement and the community at large.
The article errs, however, when it states the Division of Juvenile Justice "would like the provider to find alternatives to funding the program."
This does not accurately explain the funding changes that have been proposed. Historically, the state's nonsecure shelters have been funded through a lump-sum grant, regardless of the number of youths served. This is not the most efficient use of state or federal funds since the grant amount is not based on overall service usage.
To ensure that increasingly limited federal dollars are being used as efficiently as possible, last year the Division of Juvenile Justice began transitioning nonsecure shelter grants to what are known as "provider agreements." In this system, the provider is paid only when services are rendered.
Several of the state's nonsecure shelters have been operating with provider agreements this fiscal year; and providers were notified that this approach would be implemented for all of the existing grants in fiscal year 2006. The reference in the article to the service being "economically unfeasible" is inconsistent with the Division of Juvenile Justice's view based on the formula that was developed for provider agreements.
The division is interested in continued dialogue with the local community to ensure that the needs of youths are met in both a cost-effective and appropriate manner. Persons with questions regarding the proposed funding change or specific details of provider agreements should contact Barbara Murray in my office at (907) 465-2212.
Patty Ware, Director, Division of Juvenile Justice
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