Gov. Walker Declares A State Disaster To Address Alaska’s Opioid Epidemic

Feb 15, 2017

The Yukon Kuskokwim Ayagnirvik Healing Center provides substance abuse treatment for alcohol and opioid addiction in Bethel, Alaska.
Credit Dean Swope / KYUK

Governor Bill Walker has declared Alaska’s opioid epidemic a state disaster and ordered state and federal money for overdose medication.

In the declaration, the Governor says that the opioid epidemic goes “beyond the timely and effective response and recovery capability of local resources.”

The declaration will cost an estimated $4,058,316 from regular appropriations for the Department of Health and Social Services and from federal grants to fund naloxone distribution statewide. Naloxone is a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses. 

In a letter to the state’s legislative leaders, Governor Walker says the declaration will not draw funds from the Disaster Relief Fund or from additional State General Funds.

The declaration authorizes the Commissioner and the State Medical Officer of the Department of Health and Social Services to coordinate a response to the crisis. According to the declaration, that response could include creating a statewide Overdose Response Program and allowing anyone in Alaska to dispense and administer naloxone.

Governor Walker will announce more information on his plan Thursday.