The CEO of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Charles Clement is a longtime healthcare executive currently based in Juneau, Alaska. As part of his professional commitment to a healthy Alaska, Charles Clement closely follows the public health crises most commonly impacting his state.
The state of Alaska has traditionally had some of the nation’s highest rates of domestic violence, child abuse, and chemical dependency. Alcoholism is widespread, and prescription drug addiction is on the rise. Research now suggests that heroin abuse in the state is growing and approaching dangerous levels.
Heroin use has nearly quadrupled in Alaska since 2002. Overdoses are also on the rise, causing a crisis in public health as well as a large financial burden on the medical system. The current rate of heroin-related death in the state is approximately 2.7 deaths per 100,000 people, which is triple the 2008 rate and 42% higher than the national average.
Officials blame some of this crisis on over-reliance on opioid pain relievers. People become addicted to prescription drugs and then fall back on heroin later. The drug has also become relatively inexpensive lately, exacerbating the problem.