What others say: Bipartisan support of drug overdose bill a good sign in face of epidemic

  • Sunday, March 20, 2016 7:58pm
  • Opinion

There’s no question — Alaska has a heroin problem. It’s not solely Alaska’s problem; the U.S. as a whole is grappling with a sobering spike in overdoses and abuse of the drug and other opioids. But in a relatively rare show of bipartisanship in Juneau this week, members of the Legislature unanimously passed a bill to help combat drug overdoses, while a provision that would help battle against over-prescribing of opioid drugs is enclosed in another bill working its way through committees in the state capitol.

Senate Bill 23 was sponsored by Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage. It would eliminate the potential of civil liability for those providing, prescribing or administering the anti-overdose drug naloxone, known more commonly by the brand name Narcan. It’s somewhat similar to the “good Samaritan” laws protecting those who render first aid to those in need but focuses on the more narrow case of those whose lives are in danger from a drug overdose.

While heroin abuse and overdoses might be foreign problems to many Alaskans, they have dire consequences. Last year, 88 state residents died of drug overdoses, and the number of hospitalizations due to overdoses tripled between 2008 and 2013.

Fortunately, Narcan is relatively easy to administer — it can be delivered either intravenously or as a nasal spray. That makes it less daunting for those without specialized medical knowledge to use in case of an emergency.

The bill’s unanimous passage from the Legislature is a strong sign of its necessity — and its bipartisan support despite its primary sponsor being a minority caucus member is a heartening display of legislators’ desire to do the right thing overcoming their desire to engage in partisan politics.

Stopping overdoses, however, doesn’t address the other component of drug abuse — stanching the supply. Elsewhere in the Legislature, a passage that would require that doctors check an opioid prescription database before issuing the drugs is part of a Medicare overhaul in the Senate. It’s meant to stop those seeking drugs such as morphine or other opiates from bouncing from doctor to doctor until they can find one who will issue them a prescription.

Doctors initially voiced concerns over the all-encompassing nature of the required database checks, and legislators have been responsive in amending the language to make allowance for emergencies and inpatient situations.

There are many facets to Alaska’s struggle with opioid drugs such as heroin, and no single effort will prove comprehensive enough to stem the tide. But by chipping away at the issue with bills like the ones working their way through the Legislature this session — and by displaying a bipartisan will to solve the problem — the state may yet gain the upper hand.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, March 9

More in Opinion

Former Gov. Bill Walker, right, and his running mate former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Heidi Drygas, speak to Juneauites gathered for a fundraiser at a private home in Juneau on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Why I’m voting for Walker

Walker is the only candidate with the potential to govern effectively for all Alaskans.

Nick Begich III campaign materials sit on tables ahead of a May 16 GOP debate held in Juneau. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Nick Begich is who Alaska and America need now

It is in Alaska’s best interest to elect a member of the Republican party

State Sen. Josh Revak (Photo provided)
The time has come to end Big Tech’s rule

The hope is that the bipartisan American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S. 2992) will come to the Senate floor for a vote

Michael Heimbuch attends a memorial service for the late Drew Scalzi on Aug. 5, 2005, at the Seafarers Memorial on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Point of View: King salmon: The clash of culture and science

People do some pretty awful things to king salmon stocks

Lieutenant governor candidate Edie Grunwald speaks at a Charlie Pierce campaign event at Paradisos restaurant in Kenai on Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Election Integrity: An Alaskan question with an Alaskan answer

A needless round of feel-good meetings and what-if conversations will be a thing of the past

This photo shows the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: I’m a longtime educator, and I’m supporting Walker/Drygas

The issues our state faces are significant with regard to education.

The offical ballot for the Aug. 16, 2022, Special General Election features ranked choice voting. (State of Alaska Divison of Elections)
Opinion: Alaskans deserve an election system that represents our differences

The new system’s goal is to make this election cycle transparent, secure and easy for all Alaskans to vote

Larry Persily (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: Congress could keep health insurance costs from rising, but it has to act fast

The cost of health insurance will rise substantially next year for about 13 million Americans

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell (Courtesy)
Opinion: UAA’s career certificates are helping to fill Alaska’s workforce pipeline

At UAA, we are announcing a new suite of certificate programs responding to some of the state’s most critical needs

Most Read