The Ketchikan City Council has scheduled a special meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday to discuss the local issues surrounding opioid and other substance abuse and overdose incidences.
According to a message from City of Ketchikan Mayor-Elect Dave Kiffer to the Daily News, representatives from several organizations plan to attend and speak at the meeting, including PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, Ketchikan Indian Community, Ketchikan Wellness Coalition, Akeela and the Ketchikan Public Health Center.
Kiffer added that because “it is impossible to talk about the opioid problem without addressing both homelessness and mental health issues” those topics also are expected to be touched on Thursday.
“We will start with the opioid problems,” he wrote.
There has been much discussion about the problems of addiction and homelessness in Ketchikan during City Council meetings since the start of summer.
In the meeting of June 17, Kiffer mentioned that he’d heard from community members who were dismayed to see people sleeping on the boardwalks at Berth 3. Acting Port and Harbors Director Mark Hilson spoke of the difficulty of having enough security personnel to clear people out, as well as the problem of having no overnight shelter in the summer season into which to move people who have no homes.
The newly refurbished Overnight Warming Shelter on Park Avenue (Ave.) is tentatively scheduled to open on Oct. 24.
Homelessness also was discussed in the council meetings of July 1, July 15, Aug. 5 and Oct. 7.
Issues surrounding addiction and overdoses were addressed by community member Dave Timmerman during the public comment portion of the Aug. 19 council meeting. That topic and possible steps toward solutions were discussed by council members later in the meeting.
In the council meeting of Sept. 2, a proclamation was read to honor the month of September as National Recovery Month.
Community member Danielle Duckworth spoke after the proclamation was read.
She said, “we recognize that substance abuse and mental health disorders have been a burden on our community, and each year it becomes more obvious that the epidemic is continuing to grow.
“We cannot begin working on solutions if we don’t acknowledge the problem,” she continued. “Talking about it is the first step in reducing stigma attached to substance abuse and mental health disorders. I’m proud of the honest conversations that have led to a realization in our community that we can no longer afford to sweep this problem under the rug or pretend it isn’t affecting us in a very big way.”
She added, “by continuing these conversations, we have the ability to bring comfort to families, to distribute information on resources available and to brainstorm possible small solutions that can bring about big change.”
Thursday’s meeting agenda begins with presentations by representatives from the organizations involved with the issues of substance abuse and homelessness.
The public is invited to speak during the scheduled public comment portion scheduled to follow the presentations.
Next in the meeting schedule is a discussion planned to address those issues.
The meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. It can be viewed live via the KPU cable television service, on the City of Ketchikan YouTube channel, on the City of Ketchikan’s Facebook page and also on the City of Ketchikan website at http://www.ktn-ak.us/current-agendas-and-minutes.