NEWS | July 14, 2021

Alaska Counter Drug team wins national-level award

By Dana Rosso Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs

Members of the Alaska National Guard’s Counter Drug program were presented with the National Guard Drug Demand Reduction Outreach Program of the Year for 2020 certificate by Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, commissioner for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, at a ceremony here, July 1.
This award recognizes exceptional support to community organizations and the National Guard. The Alaska National Guard program was selected as the top program out of the 54 states and territories.
“Drug Demand Reduction Outreach Program of the Year awards recognize exceptional support to organizations from National Guard Counterdrug DDRO Civil Operators and DDRO Programs,” said Alaska Air National Guard Capt. Kimberly Conkling, counterdrug coordinator. “It recognizes which of the 54 Counterdrug Programs was the best at being the key to success for prevention efforts in their state.” 
The Counter Drug program supports the Alaska National Guard efforts and initiatives to prevent drug abuse and misuse through prevention, education, outreach, and to detect and deter DoD military and civilian personnel from using illicit drugs or misusing prescription drugs. The Drug Demand Reduction Outreach program is one of the initiatives that fall under the umbrella of Counter Drug.
“I think [being selected for the award] was a combination of incredibly welcome mission partners who included the Alaska Drug Demand Reduction Outreach program into their incredibly important initiatives, and the outstanding contributions of our DDRO members,” said Conkling.
Conkling said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, members of her team extended their reach and support by filling in the gaps for partnering organizations that needed assistance.
“This year, the Drug Demand Reduction Outreach program has been integral to the success of two programs in particular – Project Hope and the Drug Overdose Death Review Project,” explained Theresa Welton, Office of Misuse and Addiction Prevention, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “In the absence of public-health members who were called away to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the DDRO team stepped in to support these two efforts to enable seamless continuation despite the circumstances.”
One way the DDRO team helped was by assembling lifesaving Naloxone kits while working from home. This effort was meant to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on Alaskans suffering from addiction.
Additionally, the team also stepped in to facilitate the inaugural review board of the Drug Overdose Death Review Project, providing valuable data to inform the identification of local drug threats, vulnerabilities and evidence-base prevention strategies to address them.
“The DDRO team provided the continuity for the coalition support,” said Alaska Air National Guard Col. Jack Evans, chief of the joint staff. “The backbone to the state’s Drug Overdose Death Review Board, the manpower for drug prevention outreach for those experiencing homelessness, the logistical expertise to keep the Naloxone distribution effort afloat, and many other state-wide prevention efforts.” 
Conkling noted that Alaska DDRO mission partners say their organization’s successes was due to the DDRO’s ability to bridge the gaps created by the pandemic, and often receive praise for their contributions.
“In my conversations with mission partners,” she said, “I am met with complimentary anecdotes about our civil operators’ contributions to many organizations on multiple occasions. Their extensive aptitude and experience with building relationships contribute to their many successes. Their outside experiences, and academic and professional development set them apart from others in their field.”