Addicted in Alaska, Part 3 in a Series on Heroin Use in the State
Examining the economic effect of the Alaska heroin epidemic
If heroin addicts don’t get the help they need, according to drug counselors, everyone eventually suffers.
Addiction needs to be treated as a medical illness, “like diabetes,” Laflen said.
“It's not an addict,” she said. “It's a person with an addiction.”
“The thing that people don't realize is 70 percent of the people in this program [are] women,” Greene said. “Heads of households. So if mom don't get her fix, ain't nobody in the house eating. Kids go without. Mom pawning PlayStation 3s, Xboxes and videos in order to get her fix. So there are kids going to school every day, dirty, hungry, without coats in this cold winter because mom is spending everything on her opiate addiction.”
In Anchorage, police said, more burglaries, prostitution cases and overdose deaths are being traced back to heroin.
And it all began with some pain, then a pill.
The state spends about $29 million on substance abuse treatment—about $1 million of which is for heroin and opiate addiction.
Given the rapid rise in the number of heroin addicts in Alaska, drug counselors say that's not enough.
CBS 11 News called several lawmakers' offices to see whether treatment for heroin abuse would be funded this legislative session.
None of them called us back, except Senator Johnny Ellis’s staffers, who said there is a backlog of requests from all over the state—Nome, Bethel, Sitka, Kenai, Fairbanks—to build substance abuse treatment centers and to expand existing centers, like Center for Drug Problems and Clitheroe Center in Anchorage.