Program aims to make professional counseling more accessible to those who are struggling

Published: Mar. 21, 2021 at 7:41 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - People weren’t meant to live without hope. That’s the idea behind a new program aimed at making professional counseling more accessible to everyone. April is historically the month with the highest suicide rate in Alaska, and ACF Church in Eagle River hopes the new initiative will help reduce those numbers.

The program called ‘Hope to Alaska’ connects people who are struggling with their mental health with licensed counselors. Stuart Poteet is the discipleship pastor at ACF Church. He says the number one reason people don’t pursue counseling, or stop going, is because they can’t afford it.

“We wanted to launch kind of a two pronged initiative. One was raise funds so that we can pay for that counseling, offset the cost for people that need it and eliminate that barrier so they wouldn’t use that as an excuse, or find themselves in a place without hope,” Poteet said. “Then also to have a very easy process for people to say, ‘I want hope, I need to get connected to a counselor,’ and to directly connect them as fast as possible.”

Poteet says the services are open to anyone in the community, and come at a significantly reduced cost. It also allows people to donate to pay for the counseling needed by others.

“So what we do, is we ask the client to pay $20 for each session and then we cover the rest of the cost regardless of the level of counseling that they’re seeking,” said Poteet. “Some are student counselors that are being overseen by professionals. Some are doctoral and the cost goes up, but we don’t want that to be the burden for them, so we want to be able to cover that for them.”

More information on the Hope to Alaska program can be found here, and of course the National Suicide Hotline is open 24/7 for those needing immediate help. That number is (800) 273-8255.

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