Anchorage detox center to resume admitting opiate patients

After a one-week pause, Anchorage’s inpatient detox center will begin admitting opiate patients today.

“Friday is our day to get those protocols in place,” said Rebecca Ling, Director of Recovery Services at Cook Inlet Tribal Council, which runs the Ernie Turner Center.

The 14-bed facility had to temporarily suspend admitting patients for opiate detox starting last week due to a federal guideline related to the use of Tramadol.

“Federal law says you have to be licensed in order to detox opiate people with opiate medications. In the Ernie Turner Center, the (physician assistants) were not licensed at that level. We are licensed to provide Tramadol, but not for detox,” Ling said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classified Tramadol as a schedule IV controlled substance in August 2014.
Fairbanks’ 16-bed Gateway to Recovery Detox Center operated by the Fairbanks Native Association suspended accepting new patients for opiate detox April 14 for the same reason.

Ling said the non-narcotic protocols to be put in place Friday at the Ernie Turner Center are not new; they were used by the center about three years ago prior to the use of Tramadol.

“There’s many different medications dependent on the person’s need, what they’re assessed at, what works for them, but it will not be Tramadol,” she said.

Ling said she couldn’t speak to the effectiveness of Tramadol on the detox patients at Ernie Turner Center.

Despite the pause in admitting opiate detox patients, Ling said the center’s beds remained full with existing opiate detox patients and other detox patients. The detox center never stopped admitting people withdrawing from other substances. She said the waitlist still has 50 people on it.

Fairbanks’ Gateway to Recovery Detox Center continues to not accept new patients for opiate detox. Fairbanks Native Association behavioral health director Perry Ahsogeak said it’ll likely remain that way for at least the next few weeks.

• Contact reporter Lisa Phu at 523-2246 or lisa.phu@juneauempire.com.

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