Mat-Su gets green light on first detox beds
The State of Alaska has given the green light on 36 treatment beds in the Mat-Su Valley after the state's opioid epidemic has left a void community resources have been struggling to fill.
A parking lot near the emergency room will be transformed into a place for three dozen inpatient detox beds. Right now, there aren't any in the entire borough.
"We had input from all over the state of people that are experts in the field helping us with getting across the point that behavioral health resources are just really inadequate for the inpatient basis," said David Wallace, chief executive officer for the hospital.
A new behavioral health unit will be built onto the hospital to house the beds with a hallway that connects to the emergency room.
"A lot of our patients will be coming through there," Wallace explained.
For years, the Mat-Su emergency room has been ground zero for Alaska's opioid epidemic.
"It's horrific, you know, there's a generation that's going to be somewhat lost to this thing," said Dr. Michael Alter, president of Mat-Su Emergency Physicians.
Alter has been an emergency room physician for 18 years but he's never seen anything like what he has in the last few.
"Every single day I come to work I deal with at least one to several patients that are having issues or complications related to this opioid epidemic. Every day, without fail, no ifs, ands or buts about it," said Alter.
At their lowest point in life, addicts come here for help. But doctors can only do so much. Recovery is a process, and physicians, like Alter, can only treat the physical symptoms. After that, his patients have to find somewhere else to go.
That's put the pressure on peer support groups like fiend to clean.
James Savage, a case manager with the company, says he responds to several calls a week from the hospital, including one that came in at midnight on Friday.
"On the spot, there at midnight, I can relate to that person having been where they've been but the reality is, is we have lacked the resources to help them on a wrap-around level," Savage said. "They're asking for help with addiction, they're addicted and they can't get help until they're not addicted. So, we're in kind of a catch 22 with the whole situation."
That's about to change. Soon, that treatment can happen right on the spot, in a spot specially designed for it. Mat-Su Regional is in the final design phase of the project. The hospital says it should be built and ready for patients sometime in 2020.
Alaska regional in Anchorage was also approved for 24 beds. The hospital plans to convert some of its existing space for substance abuse treatment.