The Alaska Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS) is launching a new initiative this summer called Project Gabe to provide industrial workers with awareness, education, and prevention resources about opioid abuse.
Get the latest information on state-specific policies for the healthcare sector delivered to your inbox.
The Gabe Project is named in honor of Gabe Johnston, who died of an opioid overdose in January, and was the son of Sitka Public Health Nurse Denise Ewing.
Project Gabe uses the existing DHSS program, Project HOPE, to distribute naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose, and fentanyl test strips, which can test for the presence of fentanyl in drugs, to workers in Alaska.
The program is first implemented in Southeast Alaska Fisheries by Public Health Nursing in partnership with the Office of Abuse and Addiction Prevention and members of the seafood industry. sea.
Over time, the project will expand to include other industries and geographic regions.
“The majority of our workforce is in the age group most at risk of drug overdose death – males between the ages of 25 and 34,” said Bill Grant, plant production manager. from Sitka Sound Seafood. “We care about our people and are grateful to have the tools to do something in an emergency.”
The Gabe Project will provide free education and naloxone in four main ways, including:
- Installation of opioid emergency boxes in common rooms of treatment facilities, dormitories and offices
- Distribution of waterproof bags containing naloxone on fishing fleet vessels
- Providing opioid overdose kits for individuals to keep on hand anywhere
- Partnering with industries to educate Alaska workers about opioid and substance abuse risks
“This project builds on the work already being done across the state by bringing an important message directly to the workplace to Alaska workers,” said Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink. . “Naloxone is safe to use and easy to administer. Project Gabe makes it even more accessible because time is critical in an overdose. Naloxone can save a life when used immediately, and we need to make sure it is widely available in every ship, every processor, every workplace in Alaska. The Gabe project is a crucial step in this direction, sadly in memory of a young man gone too soon.
Ewing said the project will provide her with a way to help others as she mourns the loss of her son.
“Gabe was bright, witty, opinionated, adventurous and full of creative energy,” Ewing said. “He loved hunting, camping, fishing and the outdoors. He was introduced to drugs during his teenage years by a friend whose father had been prescribed painkillers. Unfortunately, Gabe became addicted after one pill, which led to over 14 years of polysubstance abuse.
This press release was provided by the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services.