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Anchorage to establish task force to fight opioid epidemic

According to Anchorage Health Department Director Joe Gerace, 142 Anchorage residents died of an overdose last year.
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 10:44 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - To address the rising incidences of opioid abuse in Alaska, Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson issued a press release Tuesday to say that his administration is establishing a task force with a goal to focus on prevention strategies, substance misuse treatment, overdose intervention, and criminal justice system involvement.

According to Anchorage Health Department Director Joe Gerace, 142 Anchorage residents died of an overdose last year. Now, the city is putting together a task force to prevent further misuse.

The taskforce will be led by the Anchorage Health Department and plans to complete appointments to the taskforce by July. The advisory taskforce will be comprised by those impacted by opioids, first responders, medical and treatment providers, public health experts, and community organizations.

“The opioid crisis sweeping across our nation and Anchorage has vast consequences on human life and the well-being of our society. It is time we address this scourge head-on, I look forward to the work of this taskforce and solutions they will present to combat this issue,” Bronson wrote.

Mike Jacobs, the Program Director at Genesis Recovery, stated that in order for the task force to be successful he feels there needs to be more treatment and detox facilities in Anchorage. According to Jacobs, most treatment facilities don’t have enough beds. Rehabilitation programs typically last six to nine months, so in the course of a year on average only 30 people are being seen.

“So for our facility the average wait is going to be roughly four to five months because during that time people decide they don’t want to go, they could’ve found somewhere else, but generally speaking that’s what it ends up being,” Jacobs said.

The Anchorage Health Department says it is considering two options for the task force. The agency could hold monthly listening sessions, during which objectives will be set or it could create a broader report to highlight the greatest areas of need and send those findings to city hall.

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