Former state chief medical officer Jay Butler takes job with Centers for Disease Control

Dr. Jay Butler (Alaska Public Media file photo)

Alaska’s former chief medical officer, Dr Jay Butler has accepted a job with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta as the head of the office of infectious disease. He says in Alaska, as in other places in the U.S., the opioid crisis was the defining challenge of the past decade as the largest public health concern since HIV emerged in the 1980s. Butler says public health workers hadn’t focused on it as much as addiction specialists at the beginning of the problem.

“But when the opioid crisis developed and people were dying, then it kind of grabbed everybody and realized, no this is problem that requires not just access to treatment but also population based approaches,” Butler said.

Listen to the full interview with Dr. Jay Butler, former state Chief Medical Officer and former host of Alaska Public Media’s Line One: Your Health Connection. 

He says although his mandate at CDC is broad for disease control, covering nearly all except malaria, there are priority areas. One is addressing HIV transmission.

“And the goal has been stated that we can reduce the number of new cases of HIV by 50% within the next five years and by 90% over the next 10 years,” Butler said. “And the tools are there, this can be done, if we have the political will to do it.”

Butler says tuberculosis continues to be a concern in Alaska as does a warming climate’s effects on infectious disease.

“And the transmission of microorganisms that are acquired either from insect vectors or from animals, that’s going to shift as the climate changes, but also climate change is stressful so it’s important to also recognize that there are behavioral health issues that need to be addressed as well,” Butler said.

Dr Butler says Alaskans should take satisfaction from the reduction in opioid deaths in 2018, but he says a lot of work remains.

“And still too many people are dying of drug overdoses, we have the ongoing challenges of alcohol misuse and we have emerging problems with methamphetemine coming back.”

Dr Jay Butler started his new position with the CDC earlier this month.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori