The Daily Mirror asked Sgt. Eric Olsen of the Alaska State Troopers and other experts in addictions whether Kodiak indeed had a drug problem.
“It’s an epidemic,” Olsen said. “The amount of hardcore narcotics I’m seeing come through this island, and the dollar value amount is absolutely astounding.”
“Literally, we’re seizing millions of dollars off the streets, and for a community that size, that bothers me. And seeing the effects of drugs is having on people here in this town –- people need help,” Olsen added.
Ken McCarty, a drug counselor who runs Discovery Cove in Kodiak and Anchorage, reports that he has experienced a spike in the number of callers seeking for help.
“I’ve seen more people calling in for help in the last two months in Kodiak, and I don’t know if it means that greater numbers have an addiction problem, or if information is getting out that there’s a treatment program that deals with opiate addiction,” McCarty said.
Drug dealers’ heaven
The reality is, Kodiak is becoming a hotspot for drug dealers.
“What bothers me is the amount of profit that drug dealers are making here in Kodiak,” Olsen said. “It’s drawing them to Kodiak. The profit level is so high here.”
McCarty reports prices can be four times as high for street drugs in Kodiak than in Anchorage.
For example, “You get a suboxone here in Anchorage and you sell it on the street for about $20,” McCarty said. “Yet the same suboxone would sell in Kodiak for $80. That gets back to supply and demand. Anchorage is not too far from Kodiak, but heroin is not going to go for the same amount as it would go in Kodiak,” he said.
Drug dealers especially like the income demographics in Kodiak.
“Kodiak is a rich community,” McCarty added. “It’s not uncommon that I’ll hear of a fisherman who made $100,000 and blew it on drugs and is now destitute and struggling to even come into treatment.”
Olsen reports that a recent meeting with law enforcement, hospital personnel and community leaders at Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center provided “the start of a forum to help tackle this problem.”
The medical center offered its help in this drug war, citing a community needs assessment last year that identified alcoholism and substance abuse as a “top priority” for Kodiak.
“Substance abuse is a concern in Kodiak, across Alaska and across the nation,” said Karen Leatherman, a medical center spokesperson.
“During that meeting, the Alaska State Troopers requested help in obtaining a K-9, and Providence Health & Services Alaska Chief Executive Bruce Lamoureux committed to funding $15,000 towards this request. This is just one of the ways Providence is committing to help,” Leatherman said.
The K-9 unit would work with the Alaska State Troopers in Kodiak.
Both treatment groups and law enforcement says the drug war in Kodiak must be a collaborative effort.
“It’s up to the community to decide what approach Kodiak takes, Providence isn’t sure what this would look like, but we are committed to supporting this community driven effort,” said Leatherman.
It’s an uphill fight, but at least the community is not laying down.
“We’re doing the best we can,” said Olsen. “The community seems to be providing a lot of support for us and saying hey, we want to help you out and make sure that you have resources available to do your job.”
He added, “Both (Kodiak Police) Chief Wallace and I are trying to do the best we can, either in contacting other agencies or obtaining support from the community, because this is a community problem, which takes a community effort. It’s not just a single agency, or a single person it’s a team effort and so we’re really trying to put that on the table and tackle that problem as a team.”
McCarty believes a “dual process” is required for this battle.
“One is having treatment facilities that have programs that are effective, and two is law enforcement doing their part — dealing with people who don’t give a rip about human life and are just after the buck,” he said.
For Olsen, Kodiak’s drug war is getting personal.
“I hate seeing this happen to my town. My family lives here. My friends live here. My coworkers live here. I don’t want to see this happen to Kodiak. I want to keep this town safe,” Olsen said.
Contact Peter Mladineo at email@example.com