State officials are working to provide resources to patients relying on medications prescribed by two medical providers — including a Soldotna doctor — recently arrested on narcotics charges.
Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said in an Oct. 11 press release that the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is working with local, state, tribal and federal partners to support affected patients, families and the medical community to address the physical and behavioral health of those who now have discontinued prescriptions.
“The health and well-being of Alaskans is our mission,” she said.
This includes supporting patients in chronic pain, providing information about pain management, helping to prevent and treat opioid misuse and supporting the community through the transition in care delivery, the release said.
“We’re aware of the concerns of both patients and providers and we’re working to address questions and issues as quickly as possible,” Zink said.
Last week, special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested Soldotna doctor Lavern Davidhizar, 74, and Jessica Joyce Spayd, an advanced nurse practitioner in Eagle River, on federal narcotics charges.
Davidhizar owns and practices at Family Medical Clinic in Soldotna. Since 1978, Davidhizar has been licensed as an osteopathic physician and holds an Alaska medical license. Search warrants were executed by federal law enforcement in the case Oct. 8.
Federal authorities allege that Davidhizar illegally distributed large amounts of opioids and other powerful narcotics by writing prescriptions for patients without medical examinations and lacking medical necessity. Officials said that between 2017 and 2019 Davidhizar, who was reportedly known as “Candy Man,” prescribed more than 700,000 narcotic pills, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, methadone and tramadol.
Licenses for the two prescribers have been deactivated, meaning opioid prescriptions, and in some cases other prescriptions, will not be filled by pharmacies, according to the Oct. 11 DHSS release.
Health officials estimate that Davidhizar and Spayd served 2,000 patients, some of whom traveled from remote communities to visit the providers.
These patients may have a wide array of medical needs, including chronic pain, and those patients will need to discuss their options with a health care provider. Patients are encouraged to contact their insurance provider to find a new health care provider, if needed, DHSS said in the release.
In some cases, anticipation of withdrawal may result in efforts to obtain opioids through other means, and can lead to increased risk-taking and the possibility of overdoses or other medical emergencies, DHSS said. Officials encourage those seeking help to visit the DHSS Project Hope website.
In a life-threatening emergency, always call 911. For supportive services, United Way can be reached at 211. Dialing 211 provides information and referral services connecting people to community, health and social services.
A 24/7 national helpline assists callers with finding behavioral health support or substance abuse management at 800-662-HELP (4357), or 800-487-4889. The calls are routed to the Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Behavioral Health during operating hours. Help is available 24/7 through Alaska’s crisis hotline, Careline, 1-877-266-HELP (4357).
The Opioids in Alaska website offers information on opioids education, preventing opioid overdose with naloxone, non-opioid pain management and more.
For help with a possible substance use disorder The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides tips for supporting friends or family members. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids offers suggestions for encouraging young people to get help with substance use.