Alaska to establish drug overdose panel

Alaska will receive a $993,000 federal grant over three years to establish an overdose Death Review Panel, which will help hold drug traffickers accountable for deaths they cause, says Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth.

The grant was announced by Lindemuth on Oct. 11, in remarks at the overdose death investigation and prosecution training session in Anchorage. The plan dovetails legislation proposed earlier in October in an update to the state’s public safety action plan to provide confidentiality protections for discussions and meetings of the panel.

Investigation of overdose deaths gives the state more information on the current drug epidemic and sources of drugs coming into the state, so that drug traffickers can be held accountable for deaths they cause, Lindemuth said.

The grant will help the state set up a multi-agency overdose death review panel to take an in-depth look at cases of overdose deaths in Alaska. The panel is part of a larger goal of the state’s public health and law enforcement agencies to hold accountable people who dispense, manufacture or supply drugs responsible for those others killed by drugs.

According to Dr. Jay Butler, the state’s chief medical officer, the model of detailed reviews of preventable deaths is a proven public health tool that has been used in Alaska for many years to reduce deaths among pregnant women, babies and children. Butler said reviews are being launched in many states to improve healthcare, public safety and overall policy.