Legislative Report, October 1, 2018
Alaska’s Opioid Response 2017-2018
Nearly twenty months have passed since Governor Walker issued a disaster declaration for the opioid
epidemic. Since then, there has been increased collaboration across state agencies and with communities
statewide, with efforts infused by federal funds exceeding $36 million. What have we done and where has it
made a difference? This report highlights the work and the results of Alaska’s opioid response from February2017 through September 31, 2018. It also meets the requirements of AS 17.20.085 to provide an annual report to the Legislature on opioid related work and opioid funding.
The national opioid epidemic has rapidly grown into this decade’s defining public health crisis.
According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths in 2017 increased by almost 10 percent from 2016– claiming the lives of more than 70,000 Americans. Nearly 48,000 of those were opioid overdose deaths, with the sharpest increase occurring among deaths related to illicitly made fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic opioids). The U.S. rate of opioid-related deaths increased more than four-fold between 1999 and 2016
In Alaska, the highest number of opioid-related deaths identified in one year was 108 in 2017 (preliminary
data); of which, 100 (93%) were due to overdose. During 2010–2017, with 623 identified opioid overdose deaths, the opioid overdose death rate increased 77% (from 7.7 per 100,000 persons in 2010 to 13.6 per 100,000 persons in 2017). Synthetic opioids, excluding methadone, caused 37 deaths–37% of all opioid overdose deaths in 2017, with fentanyl contributing to 76% (28 of 37) of those deaths.
During 2012 –2017, the rate of out-of -hospital naloxone administrations by emergency medical service (EMS) personnel more than doubled, from 8.0 to 17.7 administrations per 1,000 EMS calls in 2012 and 2017, respectively. The rates of opioid -related inpatient hospitalizations were 28.5 per 100,000 persons in 2016 and 26.0 per 100,000 persons in 2017, with total inpatient hospitalization charges exceeding
Despite the escalating rate of opioid overdose deaths and high hospitalization rates, there are several
encouraging findings. Preliminary data suggest a possible reduction in the number of deaths during the first six months of 2018—29 Alaskans were known to have died of opioid overdose in the first 6 months of 2018 compared with 44 and 56 during the first and second six months, respectively, of 2017. Additionally, the percentage of traditional high school students who report using heroin at least once dropped in 2011 and 2013 and has not increased since then.
The rate of Medicare Part D patients who received opioid prescriptions has decreased annually since 2015, suggesting more judicious prescribing in Alaska.
Furthermore, naloxone use is increasing; this is likely due in part to the increased statewide availability of thislifeh-saving overdose reversal medication. Read more at http://dhss.alaska.gov/Documents/Pdfs/Alaska_Opioid_Response_2017-2018.pdf