This past week, Gov. Bill Walker signed an administrative order directing state agencies to pursue grant funding to help fight opioid abuse across the state. The order came after Gov. Walker called opioid abuse a public health disaster that Alaska communities can not fight on their own.
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.
According to a 2015 study from the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, in Alaska, the rate of hospitalizations for heroin poisoning 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.
Many communities have established working groups or task forces to look at opioid issues, but according to the governor, many lack money or don’t have the authority to distribute Naloxone, a drug that can be used to counteract an overdose, to the general public.
To that end, Gov. Walker has proposed spending about $4.1 million in federal grants for a Naloxone program, and his office says he plans to introduce legislation to provide a longer-term solution.
Here on the central Kenai Peninsula, a free four-week Community Overdose Prevention Education workshop is being offered for parents and teens to learn about things like the science of addiction, drug facts, decision making, and prevention suggestions, and more. Participants may attend one class or all four. Organizers say there will be overdose and Naloxone training weekly with all students who complete training to receive a Naloxone rescue voucher. Sessions are from 6-8 p.m. Thursdays from March 23-April 13; register by calling 907-714-4521.
During a news conference addressing his administrative order, Gov. Walker said that “everybody in the state of Alaska needs to come together on this issue, and they are.”
We agree with Gov. Walker on this issue. Drug addiction impacts everyone in the community. We are grateful to see our leaders continue to take steps to address it.