One of the take-home Narcan kits available at the Dahl Memorial Clinic. PHOTO BY DAN FOX

By DAN FOX
EDITOR

Skagway Opioid Task Force members are strategizing over the best way to get the word out about the opioid crisis, and what can be done to combat it.

During the Task Force’s Aug. 31 meeting, a number of different tactics were discussed, and questions asked. At the start of the meeting in public comments, several local residents had questions for the task force over the opioid situation in town.

One resident, Carl Mulvihill, asked the task force members what exactly the scope of the problem in Skagway is.
John Hischer, task force member and behavioral health clinician for the Dahl Memorial Clinic, said there has been a rise in people treated locally for opioid substance abuse – some for prescription opioids, some for heroin.

The clinic had received four Narcan kits – a medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses overdoses – and had given all four away, according to Hischer.

As of the task force meeting, Hischer said the clinic had received seven more of the kits.

People are free to come to the clinic and take these Narcan kits home, said Clinic Director Shelly O’Boyle.
Also in public comments, Skagway School Superintendent Dr. Josh Coughran made mention of the state’s new abuse and neglect hotline for children, and said that the Office of Children’s Services is another agency that can help keep children safe if there are opioids in their house.

The new hotline is 1-800-478-4444; tips can also be sent by email to reportchildabuse@alaska.gov.

A major topic of the Aug. 31 meeting was the upcoming Skagway School open house, scheduled for Oct. 12, from 5-7 p.m.

The event is going to be split into two parts: one for parent/teacher interaction and for kids to show their parents around the school, and a second portion where the school will hold a showing of “Chasing the Dragon,” a documentary made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to educate youths on the dangers of addiction.

At the task force meeting, Coughran asked for input on how to facilitate the conversation following the screening of that film.

“Just because it is so powerful, because it does elicit such dramatic responses from people,” Coughran said.

Hischer suggested following the screening would be a good time to review the goals of the Opioid Task Force with the community, then go into a structured Q&A. Skagway Chief of Police Ray Leggett suggested limiting that conversation to the basics, telling the community members to think about how they’d like to get involved, and then schedule another meeting with more structure and direction.

“Because if you don’t, you’ll have everybody talking and you’ll lose control of it,” Leggett said. He also recommended sending home some frequently asked questions before the school’s open house, so that people are up to speed with what’s been going on with the opioid situation. Taking a few weeks would let people reflect on the information in “Chasing the Dragon,” and let them consider how Skagway can make a difference, Leggett said.

“Not what the state can do – what we can do,” Leggett said. “And we’ll work through that and begin to address that and direct that conversation at that time. I’ve done these kinds of things before, and that’s what I have seen when I did them before as the most impactful and more bang for our buck.”

Task Force members threw other ideas back and forth – such as a social media campaign, placing flyers around town or regular commentary in The Skagway News – to help keep Skagway residents informed and up-to-date on the situation and the task force’s actions.

Also at the school open house, Hischer suggested the Task Force may be able to hand out drug disposal kits, which are little packages containing materials to contain and neutralize unnecessary prescription pills.

Hischer said people simply cleaning out their medicine cabinets of unneeded prescriptions can be a big step in countering the opioid problem.