Over the past several days lawmakers at the state and federal levels have approved measures to address the increase in opioid abuse taking place across the United States, including Alaska.
While we lament the fact that such measures are necessary, we’re glad to see steps being taken that will save lives, even here on the Kenai Peninsula.
Citing a 2015 study from the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski noted that in Alaska, the rate of hospitalizations for heroin poisoning has doubled from 2008 to 2012, while the number of heroin-related deaths more than tripled between 2008 and 2013. The number of patients admitted to substance abuse treatment programs continues to increase.
This past week, the Alaska Legislature passed a measure that would expand access to the drug Naloxone, which counteracts the effects of an overdose, allowing a patient more time to receive medical help.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, for which the co-sponsors include Sens. Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. In addition to making Naloxone more widely available to first responders, the measure expands resources to identify and treat addiction.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Sen. Murkowski noted the need for drug abuse treatment and prevention programs nationwide: “Opioid addiction has become of the most pressing public health issues facing American families all across the nation. This not is a single state’s issue, addiction does not discriminate against any group and it cannot be confined to one geographic region. It impacts us all from the young to the old, the lower, middle and higher income levels, veterans, pregnant women, and even newborn babies all can suffer from addiction. There are heartbreaking stories from the homes of my colleagues on the east coast all the way to some of our most remote villages in Alaska. We all have seen and heard of the pain opioid addiction causes. That is why it is so essential we take action and address this issue now before it continues to worsen.”
It’s worth noting that at both the state and federal level, the legislation has been free from partisanship. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 94-1, while SB 23 passed unanimously in both the Alaska House of Representatives and the Senate.
As Sen. Murkowski said, drug addiction impacts us all. We grateful to lawmakers for seeing that, and for taking steps to address it.