Alaska health officials connecting patients to resources following opioid provider arrests

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Health officials issued a public health alert following the arrests of two Alaska practitioners in early Oct. on charges of misprescribing opioids.

The Department of Health and Social Services has been working to address the healthcare needs of the estimated 2,000 patients of the arrested providers.

“We really wanted to prevent harm to patients that we've seen happen in other states,” Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska Dr. Anne Zink said. “So, we internally stood up a very robust system to try to figure out how we could support patients in this gigantic kind of time of transition, and for many patients time of crisis.”

According to DHSS, authorities have deactivated the DEA licenses for Dr. Lavern Davidhizar, owner of the Family Medical Clinic in Soldotna, and Jessica Spayd, owner of Eagle River Wellness. This means pharmacies cannot fill opioid prescriptions and in some cases other prescriptions like insulin, from these prescribers.

Zink says DHSS has worked with federal, tribal, and community partners to give patients and providers the resources they need to provide and access care. She says cutting off prescriptions, like health enforcement officials have had to do in this case, has led to a border-line emergency situation.

“Because 2,000 people suddenly losing access to immediate prescriptions ... people can go into withdrawal and want to solicit illicit medication to be able to take care of their withdrawal or pain symptoms, and that puts people in danger of consuming potentially fatal substances,” Zink said.

As part of DHSS’ Opioid Health Action Response, the department has set up a one-stop online resource for providers and patients with ties to the arrested practitioners. This is a good place to find answers to frequently asked questions and get connected to resources.

The DHSS online resource outlines some free and confidential resources for patients:

- For support services, dial 2-1-1 to call United Way. Its hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you call after hours, leave a message. Phone calls will be returned the next business day. 2-1-1 provides information and referral services that connect people to vital community, health and social services provided by a range of nonprofit, government and tribal agencies.

- SAMHSA has a national helpline to assist with finding behavioral health support or substance use management at 800-662-HELP (4357), TTY: 800-487-4889, or online. Calls are manned 24/7 and are routed to the DHSS Division of Behavioral Health during DHSS operational hours.

- Help is available 24/7 through Alaska's crisis hotline, called Careline, which provides help for people who are either in crisis or who are dealing with isolation or depression. Call 1-877-266-HELP (4357).

- The Opioids in Alaska website offers information on opioid education, preventing opioid overdose with naloxone, non-opioid pain management and more.

- The DHSS online resource also outlines options for health care providers, pharmacists, and first responders who may see an increase in patients in the coming weeks.

DHSS also recommends patients contact their insurance provider to find a new health care provider. Medicaid recipients can contact Member Services at 907-644-6800 (option 6) or 800-770-5650 (option 2). Medicare recipients are encouraged to contact the Medicare Information Office at 800-478-6065 or 907-269-3680 or email hss.medicare@alaska.gov.

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