Gov. Mike Dunleavy this week announced a suite of packages designed to address domestic violence and sexual assault, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons, human and sex trafficking, foster care, and homelessness.
The issues are all standalone initiatives, encompassing a mix of statutory changes, budget increments, staffing additions, and administrative actions, a press release from the Governor’s office states. Collectively, the package is known as the People First Initiative.
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It comes the same week as the Governor’s office announced its budget, which among other things, again seeks to split the state Department of Health and Social Services into a health department, and a new Department of Family and Community Services.
A primary part of the People First Initiative is the acquisition of a statewide database and management system which will allow authorized providers and grant administrators to spot patterns and identify causes of homelessness, trafficking, and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons. The upfront cost of the system is $750,000, with an annual operating cost of $250,000.
Dunleavy will further be proposing an omnibus crime bill to address domestic violence and sexual assault that would address repeat protection order violators; expand the definition of serious physical injury and elevate the offense’s penalties; expand the crimes considered to be domestic violence; and provide bail notices to victims.
On Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons, the initiative would create an administrative order to form a council on the issue. In the FY 2023 budget, Dunleavy will be seeking funding for two Tribal liaison positions within the Department of Public Safety, and one position for the Missing Persons Clearinghouse.
In addressing human and sex trafficking, Dunleavy is planning to make statutory changes in the omnibus crime bill to define human and sex trafficking. It will also make sex trafficking an offense that would need to be registered on the sex offense registry, and would allow victims of sex trafficking to expunge their record. A task force focused on trafficking will also be reestablished.
The Governor’s office will be working on a new Parent and Foster Parent Collaborative Council, and attempt to reduce the number of children in foster care programs. Currently, there are more than 3,000 children in the Office of Children’s Services’ care, the press release states.
On homelessness, in coordination with the statewide database, the office will create a homelessness coordinator and add a data manager position at the Department of Health and Social Services. It will also reshape the Alaska Council on Homelessness, though details as to what that could entail were not included.
The 2022 legislative session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 18, and adjourn on May 18.