Health Report: Project Hope fights opioid abuse in Alaska

The state of Alaska is working to get lifesaving medications into as many hands as possible.
Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 8:40 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - As the opioid crisis continues in the United States, Alaska is doing its part to reduce opioid overdoses in the state with Project Hope.

Project Hope began in 2017 to fight the opioid crisis in Alaska.

According to Tim Easterly, Program Coordinator for Project Hope with the Alaska Department of Health’s Office of Substance Misuse Addiction Prevention, “The whole point was to increase access to Naloxone across the state.”

Naloxone is a medicine used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It can be taken nasally, injected into the veins or muscles, or under the skin. “Naloxone is effective against Fentanyl. You may have to use more of it, because Fentanyl being synthetic and being 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and heroin, it may take that increased dosage,” he said.

Naloxone is currently branded as Narcan and the higher-dose Kloxxado.

The project’s first step was to secure federal funding and purchase supplies, “and then we work with partners across the state who distribute those to the public,” Easterly explained.

Many of the state’s partners are agencies with a built-in at-risk clientele, according to Easterly. “Whenever they need materials, they just tell us what they need and we do our best to make sure we have it on hand.”

After a slight dip in overdose numbers in 2018, the pandemic saw a renewed surge. Said Easterly, “Some of that is driven by the synthetic opioid Fentanyl, which is causing more overdoses per use.”

In response, Project Hope expanded its efforts beyond just Naloxone. “As soon as the federal government made it possible for us to use the funds to purchase Fentanyl test strips, we began putting them in the kits and also purchasing them for distribution outside the kits,” he said.

Research shows when these test strips detect Fentanyl, users may actually change their behavior, by consuming less of a substance or having support on hand in case of emergencies.

Going forward, Project Hope plans to continue bringing public awareness.

More information about the project can be found here.

A list of Project Hope’s partner agencies in Fairbanks and around the state can be found here.