Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment

My father was a heroin addict from the time I was conceived and ended up dying from his addiction. The underlying cause was untreated mental illness.

When you don’t have support, you have to find ways to deal with it. For me it was music that got me through a lot of difficult times.

- Francis, Hatcher Pass


The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment focus area is focused on the full continuum of care from prevention and early intervention to treatment and recovery for Trust beneficiaries.  A wide range of partners are necessary to address this and to develop effective strategies that may be mutually supported through leveraged funding and effort. Planning and engagement at this level ensures positive impacts across the lifespan of beneficiaries ensuring healthier lives and increased quality of life.

The prevalence rates and negative consequences of alcohol and drug abuse upon Alaskans are substantial. Substance abuse and addiction constitute the largest preventable and costly health problems in the U.S.

The long-term negative health effects of excessive alcohol and drug use among Alaskans is linked to any number of negative social, health and environmental consequences in Alaska. Alcohol abuse and binge drinking is higher in Alaska compared to the U.S., our emergency services, public safety and emergency room departments are pressured with individuals with drug or alcohol related issues. According to a May 2018 State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services State Epidemiology report on the Health Impacts of Alcohol Misuse in Alaska, 7.6% of all emergency medical transports in Alaska were attributed to alcohol consumption. Our child welfare system and criminal justice systems are also substantially over-represented with alcohol and drug related impacts. Almost half of Alaska children in out of home placements were connected to homes with parental alcohol abuse and between 2006 and 2016 roughly 18% of all criminal justice convictions were attributable to alcohol.[1]

There is also a substantial economic cost to the state. In 2016, the Trust commissioned the McDowell Group to update a series of prior studies on the economic costs of drug and alcohol abuse in Alaska. Based on this analysis, drug and alcohol use related costs to Alaska is roughly $3.6 billion annually.[2],[3]

Access to Treatment

Access to treatment is of considerable concern to the Trust and our partners, while most individuals with addictions do not enter a formal drug and alcohol treatment program, we want to ensure our state has statewide capacity and availability of treatment when an individual is ready for it. The needs of Alaskans and the capacity of the behavioral health system to meet those needs have evolved over the years and will continue to do so with statewide reforms underway which include a redesign of our current behavioral health system of care. To better understand our services, the Trust commissioned a statewide assessment of services, with the ultimate goal of utilizing this information to inform decision-making, at the regional and statewide levels, and to improve system functioning so that it can produce better outcomes for the people it serves.

The report indicates approximately one in nine adults needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol problem or roughly 62,815 Alaskan adults.  Among Alaska traditional high school students, roughly 33.5% are estimated to have a risk behavior for substance use with 18.4% having moderate to high risk behavior for substance use.[4]

Goals + Strategies

The overall goals are to decrease youth alcohol and substance use and adult binge drinking and illicit drug use. And, ultimately, that adults and children are free of the burdens created by alcohol and substance abuse.

Currently the Trust focuses investments toward the following areas:

  • Engaged state, tribal and community based partnership in the development of strategies and policy related to substance abuse/use and prevention.
  • Investing in programs and strategies to enhance access to treatment including screening, brief intervention and treatment and enhancement of primary care/behavioral health integration.
  • Support to criminal justice re-entry coalitions working towards reduction of recidivism and linkage of services and supports to support successful re-entry and stability in the community.
  • Funding of innovative strategies that both expand access to treatment and address other key Trust investment areas such as beneficiary employment and engagement, housing and homelessness, disability justice and re-entry initiatives, early intervention and workforce.
  • Capital funding to support improved access, service enhancement or capacity expansion for drug and alcohol treatment.
  • The Trust provides technical assistance to agencies serving trust beneficaries to support organizational capacity development, enhancement and sustainability of services.
  • Invest in workforce related strategies to target the recruitment, retainment and training of workforce interfacing with beneficaries and families impacted by addiction. This includes approximately $1 million in funding for the Alaska Training Cooperative which provides accessible, high value training to entities across the state, loan repayment, and engagement of youth into behavioral health areas of academic study.


Katie Baldwin Johnson, Senior Program Officer


State of Alaska, Department of Health and Social Services Epidemiological Report: Health Impacts of Alcohol Misuse in Alaska, May 2018

McDowell Reports- Economic Impact of Alcohol and Drug Use

Alaska’s Strategies to Prevent Underage Drinking

DHSS – Alaska Opioid Dashboard

Healthy Alaskan’s 2020 leading health priorities/indicators


[1] Pachoe, M. (2018). Health Impacts of Alcohol Misuse in Alaska, May 2018. State of Alaska Epidemiology, Department of Health and Social Services.
[2] McDowell Group. (2017). The Economic Costs of Alcohol Abuse in Alaska, 2016 Update. Juneau: McDowell Group.
[3] McDowell Group. (2017). The Economic Costs of Drug Abuse in Alaska, 2016 Update. Juneau: McDowell Group.
[4] Agnew::Beck Consulting, LLC & Hornby Zeller Associates, Inc. (2016). Alaska Behavioral Health Systems Assessment Final Report.