My family has dealt with mental health issues for as long as I can remember. I, as well, am diagnosed with a mental health condition; however, I am not ashamed. If anything, I am determined to break the stigma. The public stigma that has a negative outlook on those with a mental health diagnosis. The self-stigma where we blame ourselves, have internalized shame about our condition, and fear of being viewed as weak and unstable. The institutionalized stigma that provides less funds and fewer mental health services compared to other healthcare.
The lack of equitable resources in Juneau is a serious concern. We must work with our local non-profit organizations in order to provide more acceptable resources for those who are wanting mental health services. Mental health is amongst the leading causes of suicide, and Alaska suffers the most suicides per capita in the entire country. I will work closely with our non-profit organizations such as NAMI, the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition, Juneau Youth Services, SEAGLA, and other community partners to develop a plan and deliver action to make resources more equitable.
This is a topic that is near to my heart. In 2018, I lost a close family friend battling addiction. First and foremost, we must acknowledge that addiction is a disease, not a choice. The opioid crisis is continuously rising. Similar to resources for mental health, substance use resources should be accessible and equitable.
I will fight to ensure those struggling with addiction have easily accessible resources to keep themselves safe in our community. I will partner with the nonprofit Alaska Aids Assistance Association to enhance our community-based syringe exchange program, and promote a needle exchange program. These programs provide drug users access to sterile needles and syringes at no cost and allow them to safely dispose of used needles and syringes. Such programs have been a proven success, and have proven they do not increase illegal drug use or crime. Clean needles decrease infection, the spread of STDs/HIV, and prevent death. A safe place to dispose of used needles keeps dirty needles off of the ground, out of sight, and away from our children and pets. Allocating more funds to the 4As should be a top priority.
Homelessness impacts our community on multiple levels, but must be approached as a system-wide issue. We need more affordable housing for low income families. We need more space to house people who are wanting to access housing. We need more available resources in order to give people who are homeless equitable access to address a variety of needs.
We need to enhance our program that prepares individuals for job interviews and jobs. Being homeless can effect a person’s mental health, increase crime, and contribute to the opioid crisis. We must make it a top priority to tackle this issue, and help people get back on their feet.
I plan to introduce a new program (or enhance our current one) that provides complimentary classes to help develop career skills, and provide professional clothing for job interviews. I will personally teach courses to develop interview skills as I have a strong background in interview training and platform development. I will solicit qualified volunteers to donate their time to provide professional knowledge to help those willing to take action and connect to resources.. I will partner with our local non-profit organizations such as Saint Vincent DePaul, the Glory Hall, the Family Promise of Juneau, and other community partners to increase clothing drives and food drives. Most importantly, I will pressure council to increase funds to significantly reduce the growing number of our homeless population.
The pandemic has left us in a crucial position. Now more than ever, we need to come together to revive our economy. Tourism drives our economy. We need to bring our cruise ships back, safely. Following proper protocols and recommendations from the CDC, we should take proper measures to do our part to accelerate what best drives our economy. Turning down the $2 million dollar donation from Norwegian Cruiseline was a mistake. We can’t afford to let our small businesses continue to struggle or fail. Many small businesses have barely survived, and others have collapsed. As a small business owner, I understand the struggles we have to keep our businesses afloat. When donations are present, we must take emergency measures, act quickly, and deliver relief to our local businesses. We can’t continue to “shop local” if there are no local shops. It’s time we put the needs of our small businesses first.
We need to better support our black and indigenous people of color and their businesses, especially the women. Our system is fundamentally flawed. The past oppression of people of color has created an unfair disadvantage in our community. People of color have long been denied equal access to education, financial gain, and exposure to entrepreneurship. Together, we can put an end to this gap in racial equity. By shopping local at our BIPOC owned businesses, we help build racial equity and break that divide.
Furthermore, we need to reallocate a portion of our budgeting to support these businesses. I plan to introduce an ordinance providing a special grant for our BIPOC community to help level the playing field and help our minority entrepreneurs maintain successful businesses.
I am in full support of our businesses and new developers. I believe that we need to significantly reduce our zoning restrictions to allow more options for affordable housing and new business locations. Also, we need to expedite our permit processes so we can allow our businesses to expand and grow. I’ve been in touch with many business owners who are interested in expanding in order to help generate more revenue for our economy, but they have to wait a significantly long time for permit approvals. The growth of new and current businesses will create more jobs and put dollars back in the pockets of our businesses. I will do everything in my power to fast track these permit processes and relax zoning restrictions in order to allow for growth in our community.