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SEARHC closes Crossings in Wrangell, expands operation in Sitka

 

January 13, 2022



Posted Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 12

Alaska Crossings, a program that helps at-risk teens and takes them on guided wilderness expeditions throughout Southeast, is closing its Wrangell base of operations and moving to Sitka.

Crossings has been based in Wrangell since it was founded in 2001. The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium took over the program in 2017. SEARHC announced in a press release Wednesday it would permanently shut down Crossings in Wrangell.

“SEARHC made the extremely difficult decision to permanently close Crossings in Wrangell as of Jan. 12, and unify adolescent residential services into the current, recently expanded Raven’s Way program based in Sitka,” according to the statement, issued out of the Sitka office.

Raven’s Way operates a resident treatment center and uses wilderness-based therapy for young people.

“The Crossings 2021 season recently ended, so the closure will have no impact on direct patient care,” SEARHC stated in its announcement.

“Health care systems throughout the United States have been dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium has not been immune,” the statement said. “SEARHC’s adolescent residential treatment programs have been especially impacted, experiencing a significant decrease in patient volume, serious staffing pressures, drastically rising costs, and infrastructure challenges requiring substantial future capital investment.”

The statement further explained its decision to close Crossings: “These realities have forced SEARHC to re-examine how residential services are delivered and how we can continue to provide high-quality care.”

Crossings was geared toward teens who struggled in their home life, or at school or in their communities, taking them on expeditions to learn life skills such as teamwork and self-confidence.

The program’s website said it helped teens “identify, address and resolve some of the underlying psychological or emotional challenges that may have contributed to poor decision making and their current struggles.''

SEARHC said it is working with “all actively employed Crossings staff to transition them to new roles within the consortium.”

As of Wednesday, Crossings had 16 regular full-time positions in Wrangell, said Maegan Bosak, senior director of lands and property management in Sitka. She said 12 of the employees were offered commensurate positions with other SEARHC operations in Wrangell, and four were offered jobs in Sitka.

“At the height of the past season, there were an additional 25 temporary (seasonal) positions in Wrangell,” Bosak said.

In early 2020, pre-COVID-19 pandemic, a Crossings program manager told the Sentinel the operation planned for about 57 guides that year. On average, the manager said, the program took about 125 teens on expeditions each year.

In addition to bringing employees and teens to town, Crossings purchased much of its equipment, supplies and food from Wrangell merchants.

Crossings operated out of the Amanda Building on Lynch Street downtown.

Wrangell’s tribal entity — the Wrangell Cooperative Association — has come out in the past against closing Crossings, citing the economic loss to the community and the tribe’s relationship with the program.

While it is closing Crossings, SEARHC said in its prepared statement that it “remains committed to the long-term sustainability of providing essential health care services for the community of Wrangell, including primary care, emergency and hospital services, long-term care, dental, pharmacy, and behavioral health.”

 

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