Bethel’s Public Health Center Now Carries Drug To Reverse Opioid Overdoses

May 4, 2017

Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson delivered about 70 Naloxone kits to Bethel’s Public Health Center on Wednesday. It is the first time the Center has carried addiction medication.
Credit Katie Basile / KYUK Public Media

Bethel’s Public Health Center now carries Naloxone. The drug comes in a nasal spray and reverses opioid overdoses. Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson delivered the kits on Wednesday.

A rectangular, blue, plastic case holds the medication.

“It’s actually a pencil kit,” said Davidson as she snaps open the cover and pulls out two white bottles of nasal spray. Each holds a dose of Naloxone.

“Pretty easy to administer," she said. "You just undo the package, peel it back, and just like any other nasal spray, you just put this in somebody’s nose and squeeze.”

The kit also holds instructions, latex gloves, and a face shield for CPR rescue breathing. Davidson gave about 70 of these kits to the Bethel Public Health Center on Wednesday. It’s the first time the Center has carried any addiction medication. Just last week, the State of Alaska got federal permission to begin distributing the kits to rural areas. Davidson says the goal is to get them in every Alaska community by this time next year.

“And really these are intended for if you have a family member who you know is using opioids and you’re concerned about them overdosing, we want you to have one of these, so you can administer life saving medication.”

Over the last several months, Governor Bill Walker has issued a series of actions to address Alaska’s opioid epidemic. One of them declared Alaska’s opioid epidemic a public health crisis and made it possible for Naloxone kits to be distributed statewide.

The Public Health Center will make the kits available later this month. But providing them is just the first step in addressing the state’s opioid epidemic. Davidson emphasizes that further treatment is needed for anyone seeking help with opioid addiction. Behavioral health counseling and addiction medication is available in the YK Delta at the Bethel Family Clinic and the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation.