Gov. Walker declares opioid abuse public health disaster

JUNEAU — Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has issued a public health disaster declaration stemming from the abuse of opioids such as heroin and prescription painkillers, across the state.

Declarations similar to Walker’s already have been issued in states like Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

In a letter to legislative leaders Wednesday, Walker says Alaska communities have created opioid working groups to focus on the issue.

But he says they lack money and in some cases authority to distribute to the general public naloxone, which can be used to prevent overdose by opioids. He says the need for local assistance warrants a disaster declaration.

Walker proposed spending about $4.1 million in federal grants over five years to respond. But he says that’s a temporary solution and work is needed on a long-term fix.

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