Murkowski on Addressing the Opioid Crisis

Today U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) participated in a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing to address the nation’s opioid crisis, that focused on examining the cause of the crisis and steps to turn the tide on the devastating crisis.

The hearing featured one witness, Mr. Sam Quinones, journalist and author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, who provided his perspective on the opioid crisis, including his understanding of the cause and how states and communities are responding.

Senator Murkowski questioned Mr. Quinones on how we can use our positions, federal programs, policies, and funding to address the opioid crisis and the stigma associated with those who have been impacted.

Quinones emphasized how we should be advocating against quick action and short-term responses and instead focus on long-term, community responses for a more meaningful and lasting impact. He suggested a good way to start is for Senators to use public roles to encourage people to talk about their experiences.

“It is getting to know people who are actually affected, that’s where I believe – I know you have hear a lot about how you need to provide more funding for stuff – but I do believe you have public profile roles as Senators,” said Sam Quinones. “When you go to communities, find those parents, talk to them, point out the programs, meet with those county groups that are sprouting up all over the country, it’s amazing to see those. And lend you own high public profile to them. Meet with parents and say, “Thank you, tell us you story” – recruit them.”

Alaska Statistics:

  • DHSS’s Epidemiology department reported that 128 Alaskans died from drug overdoses 2016.
  • 74% of the deaths were due to or involved opioids, including prescription drugs and heroin.  38% of the deaths were solely due to heroin.
  • Drug overdose deaths in Alaska have now surpassed traffic-related deaths.
  • The economic costs of the opioid epidemic include large productivity losses, vehicle traffic collisions, increased costs in the criminal justice and protective services systems, higher health care costs, the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis B and C, and a steady depletion of the State’s general fund.
  • The total cost to the State, employers, and families in 2015 amounted to $1.22 billion, of which 45%, or $543 million was due to productivity losses.