State government receives grant for opioid-related job training

Heidi Drygas, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, presents on the budget in January 2016. On Thursday, she spoke about a federal grant the state received. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Some Alaskans with opioid addictions who are leaving prisons or juvenile justice facilities will receive federally funded job training.

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A grant also will pay to increase the number of people trained to provide opioid treatment.

State Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Heidi Drygas said the opioid crisis is affecting Alaskans from all backgrounds.

“It’s affecting those who are impacted by addiction, whether they are themselves addicted and trying to come off opioids, or whether they have family members that are addicted,” Drygas said. “Those individuals need assistance — first of all, getting clean and getting sober – but also they need help seeking employment.”

Drygas said family members of those with addictions could also receive job training.

Drygas said her department applied for the grant as soon as officials became aware of it. It received $1.26 million of $21 million the U.S. Department of Labor is awarding to all states.

“That small grant of $1.2 million is huge to our department and our state,” Drygas said. “We can have a really great impact with that amount of money.”

The grant also will pay to inform at-risk youths about the dangers of addiction. It will train teachers in addiction and how to help students having crises. And it will pay for medical devices that are designed to help people who are withdrawing from opioid use.

The grant starts this month and lasts two years. The state is working to launch the programs.