Black and white photo of prescription drugs falling out of bottle

Over the course of two weeks last fall, the Western Alaska Alcohol and Narcotics (WAANT) task force successfully seized two shipments of heroin and methamphetamine (estimated street value of $61,000) before it could be sold in Norton Sound communities.

Captain Andrew Gorn, the commander of the Alaska Bureau of Investigation of Statewide Drug Enforcement for Alaska State Troopers, said local support has been essential.

“If we don’t have support of a community, what are we? We have to have it to do the job right. Otherwise we’re coming into a community, we’re doing what the letter of the law says, and we’re immediately leaving. There needs to be a step in there where there is some time of relationship built and trust built,” Gorn said. He is also concerned about the market for illegal drugs in Western Alaska.

Lance Johnson, who leads the hospital’s behavioral health services, said “We’re a trauma rich region. We have a lot of historical trauma, intergenerational trauma that plays into the mental health needs we see in the region… That doesn’t go away quickly by any means.” He hopes the community’s investment in behavioral health, in concert with a trusting relationship with law enforcement, can build a more hopeful future. Johnson said his staff plans to open a new Wellness Center this spring, offering more intensive drug and alcohol treatment in Nome.

Image at top: A photo of a prescription pill bottle with drugs spilled out. Photo by ajay_suresh is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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