Health Watch: Fairbanks Native Association opens needle drop-off box

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Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 4:10 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - In April of 2021, Fairbanks Native Association (FNA) received a sizeable grant to help educate residents on the risks of opioid addiction.

According to Perry Ahsogeak, Director of Behavioral Health for Fairbanks Native Association, the funds have been put forward in a variety of methods to help fight the opioid crisis affecting Fairbanks.

“These funds are primarily used for prevention and education within the Native community, but we want to focus on the entire Fairbanks community as it relates to education,” Ahsogeak explained. “We know that opioids are on the rise within our community, so we want to be ahead of the game and try to get education prevention out there. When we worked with the Fairbanks Police Department, we put a kiosk there for syringes. That’s one of our goals is to get that out in the neighborhood. We have one more that we’re trying to place.”

Ahsogeak continued, “We also look at Narcan as an option for community members. We want to get as much Narcan out in the community as we can - not only within the agencies but in the public so that we can try to address that overdose at that time immediately as we wait for emergency responders to show up.”

Among these programs, FNA has recently taken another step forward by providing a safe location for residents to dispose of needles at the Fairbanks Police Department.

The kiosk is at the Fairbanks Police Department on Cushman,” Ahsogeak elaborated. “That office is open 24/7, anybody can walk in and drop it off. There’s nothing collected, no information collected, you just walk it in, drop it off, and walk out. It’s our intent to make it available as much as possible within the community.”

Along with education and prevention, FNA works to help provide a safe environment for those seeking recovery according to Ahsogeak. “We have several programs that look at providing opioid services, especially treatment. We look at our Gateway Withdraw Management which is now open 24/7 which provides a couple of beds for opioid youths. We look at our residential programs such as the Ralph Perdue Center, Women and Children’s, and our Graf Youth facility to provide opioid treatment services as it relates to the population that we serve.”

Ahsogeak continued, “This is an issue that we in the community need to address now. We have a lot of opioids out there. We know that fentanyl is getting more prevalent in our community and we need to educate our youth, our adults, on the consequences of using this, and be sure that we have the resources to address those needs.”

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