Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink, spoke at Wasilla City Hall Tuesday evening during the Mat-Su Opioid Task Force meeting. She addressed the state’s response to the recent arrests of two opioid prescribers with patients across the state, including the Mat-Su Valley.
“I heard one way to describe the closure of these two alleged fraudulent clinics is a slow moving potential tidal wave,” Mat-Su Opioid Task Force founder Michael Carson stated in an email.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska notified Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services Oct. 9 about the arrest of two providers, one in one from Eagle River and the other from Soldotna.
She said they sent out a press release the following day. She said they established a task force as a response and actively tackling the issue to mitigate harm amongst patients.
Both of the remanded doctors’ prescriptions have been deactivated so they cannot be filled at any pharmacy.
The DHSS is coordinating with state, federal, tribal, local partners and the medical community as a whole address the physical and behavioral health needs for patients with deactivated prescriptions.
Zink said that Medicaid, Medicare, state insurers, and all major private insurers have also been involved with the response, actively case managing affected patients.
“Our biggest message to patients is don’t use illicit drugs. Find a new provider and you can call your insurer to help you figure out who’s within your network to been seen,” Zink said.
During the meeting, Zink cited a connection between the Valley and the ongoing investigation. She indicated numerous Valley residents have been affected and even more may come to light as the investigation continues and people’s prescriptions run out.
“Jessica Spayd [Eagle River Wellness owner] had a lot of Valley patients,” Zink said.
Zink said they’re unsure about the exact number of patients affected, but they’re currently estimating about 2,000 individuals statewide.
Zink noted that the most troubling result of the two clinics shutting down is the fact that both opioid addicts misusing their services as well as patients with legitimate pain issues and other ailments were equally cut off their medications. That also includes people in recovery who’ve been using medication like Suboxone to ween off illicit opioid use.
“…They were primary care providers for a lot of people, seeing a lot of different conditions both acute and chronic,” Zink said.
Zink said her main concern is people turning to the street for medication due to disruption of care. This is especially dangerous with the rise of Fentanyl getting cut into various forms of opioids. One member of the Task Force asked her what to do with all these people who may end up getting “dope sick” when they run of their medications, saying it was a “horrible place to be in.”
“We’re hoping to get them before that point right? The hope is to connect these patients before they get dope sick,” Zink said.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org