ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska tribes and health providers are using federal dollars to combat methamphetamine use and suicide.
The federal Indian Health Service awarded Alaska Native Tribal Health Corp. $200,000 out of the $1.6 million that was set aside in September for suicide and meth use prevention efforts.
The corporation hosted one of two recent conferences in Anchorage that sought to educate officials about warning signs of meth use as well as spotting labs where the drug is being cooked.
Washington State Patrol Detective Jeffrey Kershaw spoke during the tribal group’s event. He’s participated in over 500 meth lab raids and trained Alaska officials in the past on how to spot labs.
“All it takes is one flight for it to get into a community,” he said. “It invades these remote communities like wildfire.”
Bethel-based Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. and the Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage were each awarded $275,000.
Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. meth and suicide prevention coordinator Ida Charlie says the funds will be used to promote wellness programs that are based in Yupik culture.
While noting that suicide is tied to all kinds of substance abuse, she said meth is not as prevalent in Bethel and its surrounding villages as alcohol, heroin and prescription opioid use.
“A majority of our suicides, not all but a majority, are when people are under the influence,” said program evaluator Mark Anaruk.
Detectives and experts say meth is one of the top drugs of choice in Alaska.