JUNEAU (AP) — Alaska’s only residential detox facilities for opiate addiction have closed due to a federal regulation change.
The 14-bed Ernie Turner Center in Anchorage and the 16-bed Gateway to Recovery Detox Center in Fairbanks are no longer accepting patients withdrawing from opioids, though they remain open for detox from other substances like alcohol.
Bradley Grigg, with the Alaska State Opioid Treatment Authority, said it is vital that the detox facilities reopen to opioid users.
“With the increase of opiate use throughout the state, if we have designated beds for opiate detox, it is essential that we keep those online,” Griggs said
Both centers had physician assistants administer the medications Tramadol and Zyprexa for opiate detox, but according to federal regulation, only a Drug Enforcement Administration certified doctor can administer those medications in a detox setting. Because neither facility has such a doctor, they no longer can treat opioid withdrawals.
The change comes after Tramadol was designated a schedule IV controlled substance in 2014.
“I’ve reached out to my colleagues in the Lower 48 and we’re hoping to gain some information from them on how they’re dealing with this — if there has been a pause in treatment services for detox, what they’re doing to minimize that pause so they can get these beds back online,” Griggs said.
Perry Ahsogeak, the Fairbanks Native Association’s behavioral health director, said he hopes to reopen the beds at Gateway to Recovery for opioid detox by the end of May.
Of the 16 beds at the facility, the two designated for opiate addiction are always full, he said.
Officials with the Ernie Turner Center, which is operated by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, did not return requests for comment, the newspaper said.
Christina Love, a recovery coach in Juneau, where there is no detox facility for opiate addiction, said losing the only beds for opioid addicts in the state is a huge problem because people needing facilities can quickly change their minds.
“If there aren’t any detox options then it’s just a matter of time before another option becomes available to them that keeps them in that life,” Love said.