Lack of Substance Abuse Treatment in Juneau Prompts Committee Formation

Lack of Substance Abuse Treatment in Juneau Prompts Committee Formation

An Alaskan Native tribe in the Juneau area has formed a committee to address rising concerns over substance abuse. The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Tlingit & Haida) formed the Addiction Action Committee last month.

Tlingit & Haida President Richard Peterson started the committee out of a need to expand resources to help community members with substance use disorders. The expansion would include greater access to treatment centers in the area and opportunities to implement prevention programs.

“Every one of our communities are concerned,” said the Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians and Tlingit & Haida Committee Chair Jacqueline Pata. “This has become a reoccurring conversation at every one of our tribal council meetings. Overwhelmingly, every one of the communities that we invited to participate engaged.”

Pata mentioned that many reasons have affected individuals with substance use disorders, especially the youth population.

“There have been challenges with addiction outside of opioids for a lot of reasons — dramatic lifestyle changes, historic trauma, large economic changes, lack of subsistence,” she said. “[These] create an environment ripe for other kinds of addictions. It’s a matter of whatever is currently availability, whether it be alcohol, meth, or now opioids.”

In addition to collecting data and collaborating with tribal communities and state agencies, the committee plans to implement a localized survey. Pata also mentioned that the committee will negotiate to receive funding from the national budget and give the Alaskan Native population a voice in the federal legislation to expand addiction treatment resources.

Members of the National Indian Health Board spoke before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month. Their speeches highlighted how widespread the opioid crisis has affected the Alaskan Native community around the country. One of the major problems, they noted, remains a lack of federal funding to allow each community to sustain their own substance abuse treatment and prevention programs.

Following the hearings, Congress approved the FY 2018 Appropriated Consolidation Act. The government has allocated 50 million dollars through the State Targeted Response to Opioids Grants for the tribes.

According to preliminary data from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Division of Public Health’s Alaska Opioid Data Dashboard, 100 opioid-related overdose deaths occurred in the state from March 2017 to February 2018; 10 percent of those happened in the southeast region.

More concerning, however, is the number of infants born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). The Data Dashboard reported that nearly 28 percent of newborns born with NAS from September 2016 to September 2017 were of American Indian or Alaskan Native decent.

Concurrently with the… (Continue Reading)