$10M for addiction treatment could add 200 beds, but there's a hold-up

A drug addiction treatment facility being constructed in Nome.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - When a tough-on-crime bill passed through the Legislature, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said drug addiction treatment was the next step to improving public safety across Alaska.

A $10 million package was included in the FY2020 capital budget but an ongoing dispute over how that budget is funded is stopping the package from becoming a reality.

“We are woefully under capitalized in addiction treatment,” said Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage.

She described that the goal of the package is to see at least 200 more inpatient beds added across Alaska, a rise of roughly 60 percent.

The $10 million provided by the State would be given out in the form of matching grants to shovel-ready projects across Alaska. The State would require a one-to-one match with local and private contributions.

There are projects on the Kenai Peninsula and in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley that are viable and could apply for the grants, said Spohnholz.

Lance Johnson, the Behavioral Health Services Director at Norton Sound Health Corporation, described a facility being built in Western Alaska: it would provide 52 slots for patients, a day shelter and a sober living facility for the people of Nome and fifteen outlying villages.

The goal of the $15 million project is to allow people to stay close to family while being treated for addiction. “The more people we can treat at home, the more successful outcomes there will be,” Johnson said.

In Anchorage, there has been a long-term proposal to remodel the Clitheroe Center and expand its capacity to 250 beds.

Nancy Burke, the homeless and housing services coordinator with the Municipality of Anchorage, told lawmakers in May that the project needed another $14.5 million to finish construction.

The $10 million figure is half of what Spohnholz hoped to add to the FY2020 capital budget, she says even $20 million would likely not be enough to totally solve Alaska’s addiction problems.

“We need another 28 new outpatient programs, 23 withdrawal programs across Alaska,” she said. “Really, this is just a drop in the bucket.”

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