A bill allowing access to opioid overdose drugs, Senate Bill 23, has been signed into law.

After clearing its final hurdle in the legislature last week, legislators from both sides of the aisle packed a small committee room Monday morning to watch as Gov. Bill Walker gave his approval for the measure.


“There’s seldom a piece of legislation I can sign that I can say, ‘This piece of legislation will save lives,” Gov. Walker said about the bill. “There’s absolutely no question about that.”

People from around the state have been advocating for the bill’s passage to fight the ever-growing opioid problem in Alaska.

“Getting legislation passed to help us with this addiction problem is amazing. I would have never thought, last year, that could have ever happened,” said Michele Morgan, founder of the Juneau nonprofit Stop Heroin, Start talking.

[ RELATED: Bill allowing easier access to heroin overdose drugs passes final committee ]

Morgan says on any given day, one out of every 80 Juneau residents is using heroin. She said the drug has had devastating effects on an entire generation of young people in the community.

“My son graduated in the class of 2008,” Morgan said. “And we’ve seen a lot of people he’s gone to school with who are struggling with this, who have died with this. These are kids we’ve known, we’ve played sports with, we did music with, we had them over for sleepovers, and now they’re struggling with this terrible disease.”

Morgan says SB 23 is a huge step in saving lives, but that the state still has a ways to go in solving the heroin epidemic.

“We have really great patient counseling, especially in Juneau, but we don’t have any first step detox and I think that a lot of that is that this epidemic came upon us so fast and so furious that we’re playing catch up,” Morgan said, adding that further support is needed in regard to outpatient counseling.

With the governor’s approval, SB 23 is effective immediately.

[ RELATED: Anchorage mother celebrates progress in fight against opioid epidemic ]

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