SEWARD, Alaska, (March 30, 2021) – SeaView Community Services (SeaView) is taking steps to protect our community as substance use disorders increase as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past year, community members experiencing economic uncertainty, disruptions in routine and lack of physical connection have become more susceptible to substance misuse. This includes people who haven’t previously experienced challenges with substance and alcohol, but now are struggling to cope. Like diabetes, cancer and heart disease, substance use disorders are a medical condition caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental and biological factors. When left untreated, substance use disorders can result in increased illegal activities as well as physical and social health consequences, such as poor academic performance, poorer health status, changes in brain structure, and increased risk of death from overdose and suicide.

Prior to the pandemic, our community was already battling this issue with substance misuse ranking as the second prioritized health need in Seward on the 2018 Seward Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by Providence. At that time, SeaView was already experiencing an increase in community members reaching out for help yet did not have the right level of care and support available locally. As the organization attempted to connect people with higher levels of care and safe housing for substance use disorders outside of our community, lack of bed availability became a significant barrier. Wait times of 3-6 months were common and during this time few made it successfully to the right treatment.

In response, in January of 2019 SeaView expanded the number of beds available in our transitional housing 4-plex building which has been providing temporary housing to individuals with behavioral health conditions since 1989. We also launched a partial hospitalization program which provides 5 hours of clinical and medical services daily at the SeaView Outpatient Clinic. Together, these two supports created an opportunity for community members to access needed care quickly and locally.

During the first year of operation, the program operated at 80 percent capacity; however, by 2020 was consistently full, with a waitlist of over 60 people. Accessing needed treatment services had again become a significant barrier and with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic already being felt, SeaView knew a robust response was necessary. The SeaView Board of Directors and Leadership Team engaged in a planning process with funding partners across the state to expand local bed capacity from 10 to 20. Partners like the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority were committed to supporting this critical need and provided financial support. SeaView then began to explore properties that would provide the best location to quickly get essential treatment services to our community.

In March of 2021, SeaView entered into an agreement to purchase the property at 402 Second Ave. in Seward, Alaska, to expand substance use disorder treatment services available in our community. The proposed property has been operating as vacation lodging and is divided into units with kitchens, common areas, furniture, linens, laundry, staff office, etc., making it ideal for a Recovery Housing Program and possible to occupy and start services almost immediately. SeaView has submitted a Conditional Use Permit Application to the City of Seward to utilize the building for Recovery Housing, Substance Use Residential Treatment and a Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Clinic. With this approval, the property will be poised to assist our community in having a continuum of needed treatment services to combat the current substance use disorder crisis.

The target population for these services is adults with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses. All residents entering treatment will be medically stable and will have completed detoxification prior to admission. The program will accept direct admissions from the community and anyone struggling with substance use is encouraged to reach out to the SeaView Admissions Team for support at (907) 224-5257. If you need immediate assistance, you can call us anytime to speak with a Crisis Clinician at (907) 224-3027.

SeaView cannot combat this crisis alone and is seeking the support of our community. As indicated in the 2018 Providence Community Health Needs Assessment, the largest barrier to accessing substance use disorder treatment services cited was “not wanting people to know I needed substance use treatment services.” This is an example of stigma and indicates that as a community we need to change the way we understand, talk about and respond to substance misuse. Substance use disorders are impacting individuals and families from all socioeconomic groups and someone struggling with addiction could be a working mom, senior citizen, pastor, coach, high school athlete, or college student. Stigma can inhibit a person’s access to treatment and positive recovery outcomes, alienate their families who fear judgment and isolation, and create unnecessary division in small communities like Seward.

Stigma will fade if we educate ourselves on the negative impacts of untreated addiction on families and communities and increase the availability of treatment so that those who need it can access it. The good news is that substance use disorders are both preventable and treatable. When given access to proper treatment and support, people with a substance use disorder can transform their lives, restore family relationships and improve their community.

About SeaView
SeaView is a non-profit behavioral health organization providing mental health and substance use disorder treatments. SeaView is led by a team of professionals who are passionate about access to mental health care, freedom from addiction, and building healthy families. We employ a staff of over 50 professionals, including a psychiatrist, nurses, master’s-level clinicians, social workers, case managers, behavioral health technicians, and administrative and support staff. Our mission is achieved by regularly assessing the needs of the community and providing a full continuum of care. SeaView’s services include crisis, residential, and outpatient programs, all designed to improve the lives of our families, friends and neighbors. If you need behavioral healthcare, we are here to help.