Alaskan lawmakers respond to Trump opioid emergency declaration

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(App users, to view the interactive data visualization, follow this link).

Data is sourced from Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) Drugs & Alcohol Services Information System (DASIS). The data is based on administrative data reported by States to TEDS through July 6, 2017.

For definitions of each Primary Substance follow this link.

Check out the data visualization, above, to examine the demographics (age, race and sex) of Alaska's 2016 substance abuse treatment admissions, by primary substance type.

Early Thursday, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a "national public health emergency" that is ripping apart the nation. Now, lawmakers from Alaska are responding to the emergency declaration.

Alaskan constituents will already be familiar with their lawmakers speaking about opioids. Earlier in 2017, Governor Bill Walker made a disaster declaration on specifically Alaska’s opioid epidemic. “This disaster declaration is an important first step in addressing our public health crisis, which has devastated too many Alaskan families,” Walker said.

Now, with Trump's declaration bringing the issue to the national level, Walker was there at the white house with five other governors during the address.

“I welcome this announcement by President Trump and thank his administration for taking this important action,” Governor Walker said. “The opioid and heroin epidemic has destroyed too many lives, and torn apart families and communities. In Alaska, we saw opioid-related deaths quadruple in six years. That’s why I issued a declaration of disaster in response to Alaska’s opioid epidemic, and introduced and signed life-saving legislation. Building a Safer Alaska is one of my top priorities.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski has also voiced her opinions on the importance of expanding awareness on opioid abuse. Earlier this month, Murkowski joined Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren in calling for Trump to make real moves against the opioid problem.

“We hope that you will back up your verbal commitment to fighting the "serious problem" of opioid addiction with action,” read the letter written by United States Senators Lisa Murkowski (R - Alaska) and Elizabeth Warren (D - Mass.).

Now, Murkowski says she "applauds" Trump's actions on Thursday. She also cited Walker's own efforts that he has made regarding the issue, and referenced the "practical steps" he has taken in her statement on the matter.

Murkowski's statement reads: “The impacts of this epidemic are far reaching and fighting it will require all of us, including federal, state, tribal and local governments, as well as families, communities, and individuals to work together. Within my own state, Governor Walker declared the opioid epidemic a public health crisis in February, and has since worked to take practical steps to combat this crisis. Today’s declaration and the emphasis it brings is another important step which I hope will encourage more collaboration and coordination in our efforts. I remain dedicated to working alongside Alaskans in this fight against opioid addiction and substance abuse and will keep fighting for the resources we need.”

Senator Dan Sullivan issued a statement thanking Trump for the declaration. In his statement, Sullivan added, "I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate and House to provide more resources to the people on the ground, as well as states and local governments who are closer to the people. This crisis effects everyone, either directly or someone they know and love. We need to work together to fight the scourge of addiction."

While some are applauding the decision, others remain critical that the declaration itself will supply real results without additional funding being allocated to combat opioid addiciton and abuse.

"An emergency declaration without significant new funds will likely be unsuccessful," said Becky Salay, director of government relations at Trust for America's Health, a Washington-based public health research and advocacy organization. "The problem is enormous and requires a similar investment in a comprehensive strategy that includes primary prevention."

KTUU reached out to representatives of Congressman Don Young for a comment. Young's office has not responded as of this filing. The story will be updated when or if those representatives issue a statement.

[DATA VIZ: Drug Overdose Death Rates in Alaska (2009 - 2015)]

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