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Alaska Sen. Sullivan meets with White House panel on opioids

  • Author: Erica Martinson
  • Updated: December 2, 2017
  • Published April 26, 2017

WASHINGTON — Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan was among lawmakers invited to a Tuesday meeting of President Donald Trump's task force on opioid addiction.

Trump launched the commission, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in March. Its aim is to find ways to combat a growing epidemic of opioid addiction across the United States.

Sullivan was among several senators invited to Tuesday because of his previous work on the issue in the Senate, according to his spokesperson Mike Anderson.

Opioid addiction and heroin-related deaths have been on the rise in Alaska and nationally. The number of heroin-associated deaths in Alaska quadrupled between 2009 and 2015, according to the office of Gov. Bill Walker.

Sullivan said the meeting included "a frank and detailed discussion about how to best address the opioid crisis that is impacting so many across Alaska and our country."

Sullivan noted an influx of federal funding for addiction treatment services, offered through legislation Congress passed in 2016, but said more is needed.

Last year, five clinics in Alaska received $1.76 million to treat addiction. The state also got a $5 million federal grant to buy overdose-reversing drugs.

And last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced another $2 million would be sent to Alaska to help address opioid addiction problems.

Sullivan said he would use his inroads on the panel to seek new treatment funding and changes to problematic Medicaid requirements.

A provision called the "Medicaid Institutions of Mental Diseases Exclusion" says qualified treatment centers can have only 16 beds per provider. That limits who can provide services and where they can provide services, Sullivan said.

That makes things difficult in a state like Alaska, where there are limited treatment options for addicts.

"Going forward, I will continue to work with Gov. Christie and the Trump administration on this critical issue, especially as it relates to increased funding for treatment centers, as well as the Institutions of Mental Diseases Exclusion, which are two of the biggest issues raised during last fall's Alaska Wellness Summit," Sullivan said.