A new study identifies a growing need for drug and alcohol abuse treatment in Ketchikan. A nonprofit that studies community health and well-being found that 70% of respondents surveyed said addiction treatment is one of the most pressing health needs in the area.
Ketchikan Wellness Coalition Executive Director Romanda Simpson said drug and alcohol addiction is a well-documented problem.
“Alaska itself has a high rate of substance misuse, and then when you break that down even further, Ketchikan has one of the highest rates,” Simpson told KRBD in a phone interview.
The numbers are stark: Ketchikan has more than three times as many alcohol-induced deaths as the national average. Data show the problem is especially pronounced among the Alaska Native population.
Simpson said again and again, survey and focus group participants lamented that Ketchikan doesn’t have a place for people struggling with drug and alcohol abuse to detox as a first step.
“Most residential treatments require you to be sober for a certain period of time before you access the treatment. Which, then, if somebody is not able to leave their place of residence in which, you know — that’s where it’s occurring, and they can’t escape that to get sober, then the desire passes, often,” Simpson said.
A new detox unit at a Juneau treatment facility opened this year, but Simpson says residents often look to facilities in Anchorage or the Lower 48 for treatment. And she says the expense and hassle of transportation is just one more barrier people have to overcome to get clean and sober.
The Ketchikan Wellness Coalition is set to present the study’s findings — including other health needs the study identified — to the Ketchikan City Council at 7 p.m. Thursday. The meeting is broadcast on local cable channels and live-streamed at the city’s website. The full agenda is available online, and residents have a chance to weigh in at the beginning of the meeting.