Few people know more about the prevalence of substance abuse in Sitka – at any given moment — than Michael McGuire.

Like most places, alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in Sitka, and will probably remain so for the indefinite future.

Number 2 might surprise you.

“That’s easy for me to answer because it’s prescription drugs right now.”

That’s McGuire answering a question from Daily Sentinel reporter Shannon Haugland at this afternoon’s (Wednesday 7-18-12) meeting of the Sitka Chamber of Commerce.

McGuire is the executive director of Sitka Counseling and Prevention Services – known as SCAPS for short. McGuire and senior staff members outlined the scope of the organization’s services in Sitka and Yakutat. But it was McGuire’s candor about Sitka’s drug problems – and their seasonal nature – that resonated with the chamber audience.
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We see different drugs come in with not only different times of the year, but let’s say the fishing community comes in. When the herring are in and the boats are coming through, you’re going to see a lot of pills come through town. They come in on the boats, they’re distributed on the docks, and away they go. When the weather starts like right now and it clears up a little bit, you have a lot of methamphetamines coming in because – I hate to tell you this – they can cook them up out in the woods of Sitka. And they do. There’s a lot of meth in town right now. Come the winter, I hate to tell you this, but we do get a lot of heroin coming through this town, and we see it. What’s interesting to me when I see these young Native kids from Mt. Edgecumbe – I’ll see them and we’ll get to talking about their drug or alcohol use history – in the most remote of these villages these drugs are prevalent, which to me is astonishing. I do know that our physicians are not the ones responsible for these drugs hitting this town. I’ve talked to many of them who do the prescription writing here and they have their own contracts: They watch each other. The pharmacies have gotten involved. You know, you used to have these pharmacy-chasers. The pharmacies are now involved, they’re cross-checking anything that looks like an opiate, to see if it had been filled at either pharmacy or anywhere else. So, they’re on top of it. It’s just coming in through the docks and through planes.

McGuire and his staff offered a detailed overview of SCAPS’s services. The organization is one of Sitka’s largest businesses, with 34 full-time employees, and an annual budget of $2.5 million dollars.

McGuire also spoke about…

Plans for a women-with-children program to be housed in the former married-student apartments on the Sheldon Jackson campus.
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An Aurora’s Watch program for women that would mirror the existing residential treatment program for men.
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The need for a community detox facility.
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