Governor Walker announces next steps for Safer Alaska

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As part of his plan to build a safer Alaska, Governor Bill Walker today (February 16th) signed Administrative Order 283, outlining next steps to address the growing heroin and opioid epidemic in Alaska. Governor Walker will also introduce legislation in the coming weeks that provides a longer term solution to the state’s opioid and heroin abuse epidemic.

Governor Walker’s administrative order directs all state departments to apply for federal grants to help fund prevention and treatment options; the elimination of illegally imported drugs; assistance with prescription drug monitoring; and development of resources to provide medical treatment in Alaska.

Governor Walker has implemented an Incident Command System, which will be headed up by Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jay Butler. These actions follow the Governor’s February 14 disaster declaration, which enables emergency responders outside the state’s chain of command to administer the lifesaving drug, naloxone.

“Heroin and opioid addiction is a disease that knows no socioeconomic or cultural barriers. The sad truth is most of us knows someone affected by this public health crisis,” said Governor Walker. “As we take steps to mitigate this disaster, we must do so with compassion for those on the road to recovery. We need all hands on deck to tackle this problem and build a safer Alaska.”

Alaska’s rates of heroin and opioid abuse have dramatically increased in recent years. From 2009 to 2015, the number of heroin-related deaths in the state quadrupled. Additionally, deaths related to the use of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have now been documented in Alaska.

On February 15th, 2017, Governor Bill Walker declared a public health crisis in order to combat the state’s opioid epidemic.