5 Things Alaska: Workforce grants, Health care spending, Overdose death increase


Eli Kirshbaum


My name is Eli Kirshbaum and I’m a Senior Reporter/Editor here at State of Reform. Emily is out on vacation this week, so I’m stepping in to write her newsletters while she’s gone. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or comments during her time off—I’d be happy to connect!

Our team is hard at work developing a highly curated speaker list for the upcoming 2022 Alaska State of Reform Health Policy Conference! See more about the event’s newly released Topical Agenda below, as well as reporting on overdose death increases, new grant distributions, and Alaska’s nation-leading out-of-pocket health care expenditures.

Thanks for reading!

Eli Kirshbaum
State of Reform


1. APCA to spend $9.7 million on workforce

The Alaska Primary Care Association is working to expand the state’s health care workforce by disbursing $9.7 million it received from the federal Good Jobs Challenge grant program. The funds—which will have a focus on Alaska Native residents—will be used to expand APCA’s statewide apprenticeship program and strengthen the health workforce pipeline.

“This grant is a critical step forward in finding solutions for long-standing workforce challenges that will further efforts to rebuild and advance Alaska’s future health care workforce,” says AHHA CEO Jared Kosin. The Alaska Healthcare Workforce Pipeline Project will train and hire thousands of new health care workers and provide pre-apprenticeships, registered apprenticeship programs, and a health career pathway that will be available to all high school students.


2. Topical Agenda now available!

In case you missed it, the Topical Agenda for the 2022 Alaska State of Reform Health Policy Conference is now available! We’re thrilled to release this breakdown of panels in anticipation of our event in Anchorage on October 6th.

We extend our gratitude to our Convening Panel, who offered immensely valuable input about the kinds of panel topics and speakers Alaska’s health care sector would want to see. If any of these panel topics pique your interest, be sure to register to be with us!

3. New SUD grants will support BH treatment

The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority is directing over $2.3 million in grants to support local organizations who serve people with behavioral health needs or mental disabilities. AMHTA CEO Steve Williams says the grants will “support and improve Alaska’s full continuum of care, from prevention, to intervention and treatment, to post-treatment.”

Recipients include the Youth Traumatic Acquired Brain Injury program—which will receive $93,074 for its Return to Learn initiative—the Mountain View Health Services Behavioral Health Planning Project—which will receive $50,000 for consultation and technical assistance—and the Ketchikan Crisis Now program—which will receive $100,000 to hire a full-time community planning coordinator for its Crisis Now program.

4. Alaska leads nation in out-of-pocket health care spending

A recent study from Health Affairs revealed that Alaska had an average per-person out-of-pocket health care expenditure of $14,500 in 2019—the highest in the nation. That year, more than $4 out of $10 spent on health care in the state was out-of-pocket.

“These disparate trajectories are the consequence of state-specific factors that affect the demand for care, including demographics and the underlying health of the population, as well as differences in how health services are provided, financed, and regulated in each state,” reads the report. Health Affairs used 368,640 models to predict total health care spending in each state, using data from organizations including the American Hospital Association and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.


5. Overdose death rates continue to rise

The number of overdose deaths in Alaska grew by 35.2 deaths per 100,000 people—an increase of 75%— in 2021 compared to 2020, according to State’s recently released 2021 Drug Overdose Mortality Update. Alaska’s 253 drug overdose deaths that year were disproportionately among men and American Indian/Alaska Natives.

Anchorage was the city with the most overdose deaths in 2021, at 49.3 deaths per 100,000 people. Fentanyl-related deaths in the state rose from 58 in 2020 to 145 in that year. The report says the 148% increase in overdose deaths involving methamphetamines within the span of a year suggests the state needs to invest in an expansion of access to SUD treatments.