Alaska

Alaska

Description of Project 
Alaska’s SOAR Initiative is a multi-agency collaboration that started in 2007 and has been supported by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and the State of Alaska Health and Social Services Department of Behavioral Health. It aims to increase access to the disability income benefit programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for eligible adults who are homeless or who are at risk of homelessness and have a mental illness and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder.
 
Strong partnerships are a crucial aspect of the SOAR process within Alaska and we have been fortunate to have committed partnerships with SSA, Disability Determination Services (DDS), many community providers and other state agencies. Without these many partnerships, we would not be able to implement the SOAR Initiative effectively and assist those in need.
Expectations of Participation in SOAR 
Only those who have completed the two-day Stepping Stones to Recovery training or the SOAR online training can submit SOAR applications. Two-day trainings are held as needed and have taken place in locations across the state.
 
Potential training participants and their agency directors are asked to complete a brief questionnaire. The purpose of this screening tool is to ensure that those who participate in the training will be able to implement the training effectively and that there is clarity about expectations and time commitments.
 
The questionnaire explores whether or not the individual currently works with adults (18+) experiencing or at risk of homelessness AND diagnosed with a mental illness, and whether he or she is currently assisting clients apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). If the answer to the latter is no, the State Lead or training coordinator will further explore whether this is because the person does not yet have the necessary skills and knowledge to undertake such applications, or whether performing such tasks do not form part of the person’s job role.
 
The questionnaire also asks the individual to confirm that he or she can participate in both days of the scheduled training (or full completion of the On-line Training as available) and that the agency leadership is willing to dedicate the necessary time to allow the individual to undertake the following activities:
  • Complete one SOAR application within six months of attending the training
  • Complete a further single SOAR application within the next twelve months
  • Participate in ongoing SOAR-related learning opportunities
  • Undertake the key components of the SOAR process, including:
    • Becoming the applicant’s representative
    • Obtaining medical records
    • Producing medical summary report
    • Participating in local quality review processes
    • Maintaining communication with SSA/DDS
    • Submitting data to local SOAR lead
Following the training, all participants are provided with an electronic file that contains copies of all the necessary SOAR and SSA forms as well as helpful tools and contact information. Further, their names are placed on the SOAR-trained list held by training team and this is shared with SSA and DDS. These agencies check all SOAR applications against this list and will not accept SOAR claims from anyone who has not completed the training. Additionally, all those who have been SOAR trained are placed on the mailing lists for both the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center and the Alaska training team's SOAR e-newsletter/updates.
 
Anyone interested in participating in SOAR training in Alaska should contact the State Team Lead listed above.