MAPP forms opioid task force for Southern peninsula

Aug 28, 2017

Credit Courtesy of MAPP

Communities around the state have been trying to find ways to deal with opioid addiction. Stakeholders have been forming community-based task forces as a way to combat the problem, aggregating available services, providing help lines and filling in the blanks on the road to recovery. There are still a lot of blanks for those seeking treatment on the Southern Kenai Peninsula, but a group of Homer agencies and community members hope to change that.

Mobilizing For Action Through Planning and Partnerships, or MAPP, is a group of 11 agencies on the Southern Kenai Peninsula that has one overarching goal, assess the health needs of a community and work towards meeting those goals.

“So we bring folks together to assess health, identify needs and work on solutions. So, addiction and addiction resources is certainly one of the needs that have been identified through the MAPP process,” Derotha Ferraro explained.

Ferraro is the director of public relations at South Peninsula Hospital, one several community agencies taking part in MAPP and working toward building an opioid task force.

Right now, those seeking treatment on the Southern Peninsula have a tough road ahead of them. There are no dedicated detox facilities and treatment services are limited, often requiring an additional diagnosis.

Ferraro says the idea to address these issues directly came from state representatives after a community meeting MAPP put on earlier this summer.

“One of the recommendations that they had was to go ahead and establish a community-wide task force,” she recalled. “That would really set us up to create local solutions, but also be prepared to work with the state on state resources that are becoming more and more available.”                                                                               

So far, MAPP has only held a couple of meetings to identify what services are available and which ones aren’t.

They’ve been working with one of the original opioid-based coalitions in the state, the Mat-Su Opioid Task Force. Vice President, Michael Carson, says working with other communities is one of the task force’s primary goals.

“In fact, we’re looking at composing a manual on how to help people fire up task forces and some of the basic tools to be able to do that,” he added.

The Mat-Su group formed two years ago, and it’s helped spark task forces in Anchorage, Bristol Bay, Kodiak and other effected areas around the state. It has worked with the Gov. Bill Walker’s office on statewide initiatives and with Alaska’s congressional delegation.

Peer-to-peer groups have also formed in the wake of the task force, providing 24-hour hotlines, essentially one-stop shops pointing those in need towards care. The task force also aggregates resources on its website for all of Southcentral Alaska.

“When the individual wants to get help, we know how imperative it is when that opportunity opens up, or the iron is hot, you have to strike,” Carson said.

In Homer, MAPP is trying to emulate what’s happening in Mat-Su. Ferraro says the group also wants to create a one-stop resource to connect services that already exist and future services coming down the line.

“So, we’re kind of exploring the concept of a volunteer network to be available to help people no matter what time of day it is,” she explained. “When they decide, ‘I need some help,’ we’re here for you. We’re pretty excited about getting that fleshed out and advancing that.”

Ferraro says the newly formed coalition is meeting monthly, and those meetings are open to the public. MAPP hopes to have the task force fully operational in the coming months.