By Melinda Munson
Mayor Andrew Cremata sees a challenging winter ahead. That’s one reason he partnered with Dahl Memorial Clinic and Skagway Police Department to combat substance abuse.
The 2020 Skagway Addiction Clean Sweep is a new program “designed to help residents suffering from addiction and identify and eliminate illegal drug trafficking within the borough.”
Cremata is intensely aware that drug use and suicide attempts in Juneau have substancially increased with the onset of COVID-19.
“When times are tough and people don’t have anything to do … that can be an open door to drugs,” Cremata said. “We can’t let it destroy this community.”
Cremata said the first goal of the program is to get help for “people who are having problems.” He noted that individuals who are dealing illegal substances “don’t get the same courtesy.”
John Hischer, licensed clinical social worker for Dahl Memorial Clinic, will help with the most important aspect of the program, getting resources to individuals struggling with drug abuse. Hischer can “provide insight into the recovery process.” He can assist clients with making safety plans, coping with urges, enrolling in counseling and finding in-patient programs if necessary.
While drug and alcohol abuse happens year-round in Skagway, Hischer said he observes “more harm done during the winter.”
“My goal for the program is for people to reach out for help,” Hischer said.
In January, the Dahl Memorial Clinic will sponsor a free substance abuse workshop. Interested parties can be screened by Hischer and referred to medical providers if appropriate.
Hischer hopes participants will “look at their substance use behavior and see if they need to change it.”
Another high priority for Hischer this winter is suicide prevention.
“I am worried about the potential for suicide. Especially if we start getting some bad news in February,” Hischer said.
He urges community members to ask direct questions to individuals they might be worried about. If someone is struggling, don’t be afraid to ask if they have thoughts of suicide, he said.
Hischer can be reached at the clinic at 907-983-2255, extension nine, or firstname.lastname@example.org.