Borough Assembly Member Orion Hanson has volunteered to join the Opioid Task Force. Hanson made the offer at the May 18 assembly meeting, and his fellow assembly members – including Tim Cochran, who is already part of the task force – approved.

The Opioid Task Force had been delayed from starting, due to the resignation of Angela Grieser from the Borough Assembly. Grieser, who has been combating health issues, was slated to head the task force.

While the full task force finds its footing, however, Skagway School Board President and behavioral health clinician John Hischer said the Dahl Memorial Clinic and school are still moving forward with several initiatives to help ward off the problem. The hope is, Hischer said, that by having community partners like the school and clinic hit the ground running, the task force will have a more advantageous starting position when it is able to finally meet.

In an interview on May 17, Hischer said at the school level he and Superintendent Dr. Josh Coughran would within a week be meeting with Officer Brian Williams of the Skagway Police Department to work on developing a drug-education curriculum in the school. This had been previously discussed by the Skagway Board of Education; correspondence from Williams had indicated he would want to tailor-make a program that fits Skagway, and that he doesn’t believe “cookie-cutter” drug prevention programs are as effective as necessary.

When the task force gets under way, Hischer said he sees developing some public education for adults and students alike as an initial move for the group.

“This is all about public health education, and getting people to understand the dangers of it, signs and symptoms to look for and how to get people help,” Hischer said. “I think that’s where it would be time well spent.”

Recently, the clinic put a prescription drug drop-off box up in its entryway, making it easier for members of the community to clear their cupboards and medicine cabinets of unneeded drugs.

The box was installed the week of May 8, according to Hischer.

The clinic is also seeking the ability to distribute Narcan, a medication used to block the effects of opioids, primarily during an overdose. It can be administered intravenously, or by spray into the nose.

However, Clinic Executive Director Shelly O’Boyle said many facilities around the state are eager to jump aboard the Narcan program, but are still waiting on the state to be able to enroll.

“The state has stated that they are going to do this program…obviously they weren’t ready to fully roll it out, because I know I’m not the only clinic in Alaska that’s trying to become a registered dispensary,” O’Boyle said.