WASILLA — Alaska State Trooper Lt. Tom Dunn was recently recognized by the Mat-Su Health Foundation for his widespread efforts with the Mat-Su Crisis Intervention Team Coalition and Mental Health First Aid training.
Those programs focus on appropriate conduct when responding to a behavioral health crisis, ensuring safe and effective interactions between first responders and citizens. Dunn received the award on June 10.
“He’s really raised the bar across the system,” MSHF CEO Elizabeth Ripley said.
Ripley said that Dunn has been a longtime advocate for mental health in public safety and his contributions have effectively transformed the way the systems work to support people in the community.
“Everybody comes out of it with more dignity and health. It’s really quite remarkable and inspiring,” Ripley said.
Dunn has clocked in nearly 25 years of service with the department of public safety. In 2015, he became a member of the Mat-Su Crisis Intervention Team Coalition, according to a recent press release.
After Dunn completed the Mental Health First Aid course, he wanted to start training fellow troopers and other first responders in the community.
In 2017, he was certified by the National Council for Behavioral Health as an instructor for the program. Since then, he’s trained over 100 first and secondary responders in Mat-Su.
Dunn’s reach has extended past the Valley, venturing to the DPS training academy in Sitka as well as the prison system in Seward. Due to his continued advocacy, DPS added a special lapel pin for CIT graduates to be included as part of the official AST uniform.
“You can see how that’s a game-changer right? Over last three years, he’s done all of this,” Ripley said.
Ripley said that Dunn’s efforts have resulted in improved safety for responding officers as well as a more dignified approach for the person and their family members. She said this is especially important since people struggling with their mental and behavioral health are some of the most vulnerable in the community.
“He’s really raised the bar for how the whole system responds to a crisis, with respect to mental health and/or substance abuse disorder,” Ripley said. “That can be any of us. We are not immune to any of these diseases.
The Bert Hall Award was created in honor of Valley resident Bert Hall, who helped form the Valley Hospital Foundation Board of Directors and has been a Mat-Su Regional Medical Center Trustee.
Ripley said that Dunn’s actions have broken the “status quo” where most people find themselves. She said that he helped set the tone so officers wanted to do it, showing the overall value it brings the community at large. She marveled at his initiative to tackle these issues from inside his own line of work.“All of that has come from the inside, that’s really why we’re honoring Lt. Dunn,” Ripley said.
Dunn’s 25 year mark is around the corner and he will be retiring from AST in 2020.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org