(Alaska Youth Advocates)
Our program offers the chance for a healthier life to young people who have little or no family support and have no place to go but the streets. Many have quit school, and many suffer from abuse or addiction. Through our youth drop-in center in midtown and street outreach, ACMHS offers a caring environment and information that can help young people make good decisions in their lives. At ACMHS young people who have overcome their own challenges learn how to help others by becoming peer counselors.
ACMHS strives to engage youth in services by keeping barriers low. Youth visiting the drop-in center may access traditional mental health services in a low-stigma setting as needed or learn about other resources available in the community to help them.
Alaska Youth Advocates (AYA) was originally founded in 1972 by several lawyers concerned with the number of at risk and homeless youth in Alaska without necessary adult support. In 1992, the POWER (Peer Outreach Workers Education and Referral) program was established, focused on a peer-to-peer model to reach at-risk youth through street outreach and drop-in center services. From the mid 1980’s until the mid-2000’s, the organization (then called the Alaska Youth and Parent Foundation) operated several shelters for homeless youth. After 2005, the focus turned to the POWER program. In 2014, the AYA Board voted to merge and become a program of ACMHS. We continue to hire peer outreach workers to provide peer support at our drop in center and through street outreach.