My husband, Jay Hammond, never compromised his values and that is what made him such a strong and effective Governor of Alaska.
Jay always put people over his party affiliation and he understood what it meant to govern in pivotal moments and overcome tough challenges.
Thanks to those values and Jay’s hard work, Alaskans have the Permanent Fund today.
Mark Begich shares many of the same values as Jay. Mark has a deep love and commitment to Alaska – and he is just the kind of leader Alaska needs today. Which is why I’m giving him my full support to become Alaska’s next Governor.
With Mark as our next Governor, I am confident that the future of the Permanent Fund is secure and that we will have a fiscal plan that is fair for all Alaskans.
I hope Mark can count on your support today and on your vote in November.
Former First Lady of Alaska
Alaskans for Begich 2018
Recovery one Alaskan at a time
When we talk about the behavioral health challenges facing our state – whether it’s alcohol addition, opioids, or suicide – most of us think of individuals who we love. In my family, and in too many Alaska families, we have seen firsthand the devastating impacts of addiction. We have also seen the beauty and grace of recovery.
I truly believe Alaskans are a more resilient people than most. And when confronted with the enormity of the challenges we face as a state, I draw hope and inspiration from the thousands of Alaskans who are living proof that recovery is possible. During our hardest moments, let us not forget that. Recovery is possible.
As we approach the end of this Recovery Month, a national observance dedicated to increasing understanding of mental health and substance misuse and celebrating those Alaskans who have chosen the path to recovery, let us continuously celebrate those who have struggled and come out the other side stronger. They are sitting next you in the office, they are raising successful children, they are children returning home.
More investment in prevention and treatment is critical. I was pleased to see the legislature fund the administration’s request for more behavioral health grants. But if we’re going to turn the tide, every Alaskan must step up.
First, we must change the way we talk about addiction. People choose to use drugs, but nobody chooses addiction. It’s a disease, a disease that we cannot effectively treat through the barricade of stigma.
Second, we must change how we talk about recovery. Nobody can be forced to recover. But that doesn’t mean everyone else if off the hook. Whether someone is battling alcohol addiction or misuse of another substance, each of us has the ability to be a positive influence on their journey to sobriety, whether it’s directly as a friend or family member, or indirectly by offering support services and resources as an employer.
Third, and crucially, we must celebrate recovery. Recovery is a lifelong process and a daily commitment, and support is helpful through every step of that journey.
I am encouraged to see strides being made every day to help Alaskans choose sobriety. There is a larger conversation happening about substance misuse, sobriety and recovery—both nationwide and here in our state—which is helping to reduce the stigma that exists around this topic.
Recently, Cook Inlet Tribal Council opened a brand new residential treatment center in Eklutna, dedicated to helping Alaskans overcome drug and alcohol addiction. Our state is also fortunate to have organizations like Recover Alaska and Alaska 2-1-1, which are committed to connecting Alaskans with life-saving resources throughout every step toward sobriety.
To those who feel overwhelmed by the challenge before us, remember this: while our state’s recovery will be built one Alaskan at a time, none of us are going through it alone. Offer love and support to the people in your life. Be brave enough to accept it when you need it. Together, we can create a support system that stretches from coast to coast.
First Lady Donna Walker
Celebrating Medicaid Expansion
This month marks the third anniversary since I took executive action to expand Medicaid in Alaska. It opened the door to health care for more than 44,000 Alaskans, a critical improvement for our health and economy.
Alaskans around the state have shared their stories with me about receiving necessary care as a direct result of Medicaid expansion. Working on the slope, fishing, logging, construction, subsistence – hard work is an Alaskan value, but it can take a toll. Countless hardworking Alaskans have told me about being able to return to work because expansion helped them get the care they needed. . . Stories about cancer detection and treatment, medications for chronic diseases, and treatment for addiction – these are real lives and the real motivation behind my decision to expand access to health care.
No Alaskan wants to be sick or injured. No Alaskan should have to choose between taking their partner to the doctor or paying their rent. Medicaid coverage enables Alaskans to get the care they need to stay in, or return, to the workforce. It decreases medical costs for all of us, by making sure people who need care have a reliable, affordable option. They don’t have to delay getting care until they are in such poor condition that treatment is absolutely necessary – but impossibly expensive.
We all benefit by making sure Alaskans have access to preventative care, instead of relying on emergency treatment that bankrupts families before passing those costs on to the rest of us. Medicaid expansion is also a critical component in addressing Alaska’s opioid epidemic. It has covered more than $73 million in behavioral health services, providing essential help for addiction, which has touched far too many of our family members, friends, and neighbors’ lives.
Medicaid expansion also makes economic sense – especially in light of Alaska’s fiscal crisis for the last four years. Medicaid expansion brought federal dollars to Alaska when we most needed an economic boost. Since September 1, 2015, Medicaid expansion has paid nearly $1 billion into Alaska’s health care industry. According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, some of the 800 new Alaska health care jobs created in 2017 are due to the expansion. At a time when other Alaska industries experienced significant job loss, Medicaid expansion made health care one of Alaska’s fastest growing industries.
Along with bringing money in, expansion has also saved money going out. Alaska has saved close to $16 million because of expansion. It opened the door to federal match funding of at least 90 percent for programs that were previously funded entirely with state general fund dollars.
Despite strong political opposition, even a lawsuit to block expansion from Senate Majority, thousands of Alaskans and more than 150 organizations stood together to support our efforts to expand Medicaid, including the Alaska Federation of Natives, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Mat-Su Borough Assembly, Alaska AFL-CIO, and the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation. It was clear to all of us that partisan politics was not a worthwhile reason to deny thousands of Alaskans health care, at the expense of their financial security, our economy, and other working Alaskans.
Expanding Medicaid was not a political decision for me: I was born and raised in a state that taught me self-determination and strength are essential for success. And after a lifetime of living here, I’ve learned those qualities are most valuable when employed in the service of others. Whether it’s digging out a snow-bound truck, dividing the first whale of the spring, or sharing the last berries of the fall, many of the most fiercely independent Alaskans I know are those who are first to lend a hand when there’s work to be done. That’s the Alaska I live in, and the Alaska I hope my grandchildren will live in, too.
I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me in the last three years to thank me and say, “I am alive because of Medicaid expansion.” I believe that all Alaskans deserve dignity, respect, and the opportunity to lead safe and healthy lives. I expanded Medicaid because I was unwilling to compromise on that belief. Alaska today is stronger and healthier than it was three years ago. I have no doubts.
Governor Bill Walker