Wrangell is losing one of its largest private-sector employers. Alaska Crossings, a wilderness program for at-risk youth, has been anchored on the island for more than two decades.
Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (or “SEARHC”) announced Wednesday in a written statement that the wilderness expedition program would be permanently closed, effective immediately, and resources and gear consolidated with its other adolescent residential treatment program – Raven’s Way – in Sitka.
That effectively dissolved the Wrangell-based behavioral health program that led wilderness expedition trips each summer for teens in Tongass National Forest.
The announcement was not completely unexpected. SEARHC had said it was exploring options for the Crossings program over the last year: at one point in 2020 it was considering moving some or all of the program to Sitka. But that didn’t happen. At the time, Wrangell’s tribal government passed a resolution opposing Crossings’ move out of town, citing the program’s economic and social importance to the community of Wrangell.
At its peak, Crossings employed more than 20 staffers in its Wrangell office, plus around 50 seasonal guides, and led expeditions for an average of 120 young people each year.
In a statement, SEARHC wrote that the COVID-19 pandemic had a big impact on its adolescent residential treatment programs. The tribal health provider stated that rising costs, lower patient enrollment and staffing issues forced SEARHC to reconsider its residential treatment structure.
SEARHC spokesperson Maegan Bosak wrote in an email that when Crossings was dissolved on January 12, it employed 16 people in Wrangell. Four of those employees were offered positions in Sitka, she said, and 12 were offered “commensurate positions” in Wrangell.
She added that at the height of the summer 2021 season, there were 25 seasonal guide positions in town, who oversaw 16 Crossings expeditions.
It’s unclear whether any of these previously employed temporary workers would be reassigned.
Wrangell Mayor Steve Prysunka, who helped found the program in 2001, declined to comment.
1/12: This article has been updated with additional details from SEARHC and to correct the spelling of Wrangell Mayor Steve Prysunka’s name.
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