Anchorage officials call spice crisis ‘unsustainable’

Officials in Anchorage were told Wednesday that spice-related incidents are creating an unsustainable burden on emergency responders in the city.

A meeting of the city’s public safety committee was dominated by personnel discussing the toll its taking on their staff, resources, and budgets.

In his report to the committee’s Assembly members, Fire Chief Dennis LeBlanc said that while many believed problems with spice peaked this summer, things have gotten much much worse since then.

So far in October there have been days where up to 48 percent of all emergency transports are spice-related, and additional vehicles have had to be called in from Eagle River because the entire Anchorage fleet is already responding to incidents. Acute reactions to the drug have led to field intubations in five to seven percent of response calls, a dramatically higher rate than normal. LaBlanc and others say emergency responders and hospital staff are dealing with extreme exhaustion as a result of so many spice-related cases.

Assembly Member Paul Honeman chairs the public safety committee, and sees many unknowns as far as where the supplies of spice are coming from, and why so many people are using it in spite of the dangers.

“This seems to be a very quick and easy high,” Honeman said, adding “There’s much to be said and learned about what’s in those products.”

The mayor’s administration introduced an ordinance earlier in the week that would impose criminal penalties on using and selling spice and similar products. A large part of the measure is letting officers obtain warrants that allow them to build larger cases against manufacturers and sellers.

The police department is currently investigating spice-related cases with federal partners from the DEA.