After cuts to addiction treatment funding, Alaskans look for other sources

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As crime and drug addiction continue to plague Alaska, the legislature is looking for solutions.

Importing cheaper prescription drugs to Florida was one of the most hotly contested fights of the 2019 legislative session. (Tom Varco/ CC BY-SA 3.0)

“When you want to try to solve a problem, you want to look at what the root causes of the problem are,” says Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage. “And you know, our policy experts in Alaska have said that addiction is driving so much crime in Alaska."

Governor Dunleavy said when he signed the capital budget Thursday, that his goal is much the same.

“When I ran for governor, my message was pretty clear,” Dunleavy said. “Restore and protect the PFD, improve crime and public safety, put into place a permanent fiscal plan, and diversify the economy and create jobs."

But disagreement on methods came when Dunleavy vetoed funding for drug addiction treatment facilities.

His press secretary cites a waiver, approved by the Trump administration, that would allow treatment facilities in Alaska to bill Medicaid for their service, making early treatment more available.

“If you can get someone treatment, they're not going to end up, perhaps, in intensive care units or in correctional facilities, higher levels of care," says Nancy Burke, Homeless Services Coordinator for the Municipality of Anchorage.

While the waiver will help, Rep. Sponholz says it doesn't solve the problem the $10 million was supposed to fix: a lack of facilities.

“If you can hire the personnel and offer the services, but you have no place to offer the services in, it's kind of moot." Spohnholz says.

As the new fiscal year continues, communities will need to look elsewhere to fund new facilities.

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