- Associated Press - Sunday, May 17, 2015

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - The city of Bethel has directed managers to begin drafting a plan to combat the growing heroin problem in the southwest Alaska hub community.

The Bethel City Council last week voted to have the city manager lead a team that will partner with community organizations to battle illegal narcotics, Bethel radio station KYUK reported (https://is.gd/B1J1TL).

“Sometimes it’s too late, but it’s not late for a lot of people out there. We can really help these people,” said Councilman Byron Maczynski, who said he has received a death threat for publicly talking about the city’s heroin problem. “I hope the community can come together.

“It’s sad, and we need to do something,” said Maczynski, who introduced the initiative before the council.

The council’s proposal calls for the city manager and top staff, like the police and fire chiefs, to work with local and regional organizations to develop a comprehensive city plan.

Among the early suggestions are developing an anonymous reporting system, teaching people how to identify those who need help and how they can get it, and creating support groups.

Councilman Mark Springer said the problem is being fed by a criminal enterprise that stretches far outside city limits. For this effort to be effective, Springer said the city has to connect with law enforcement at every level.

“We would be happy to see as much law enforcement pressure brought to bear against people who are importing narcotics into Bethel and selling them here,” Springer said.

“It’s criminal conspiracy and organized crime in no uncertain terms” said Springer, who wants the city manager to coordinate with the Alaska State Troopers and the FBI.

Doreen O’Brien, who runs the pre-maternal home for expectant mothers, said responsibility goes beyond the community’s organizations.

“But it’s also our community, and it’s up to us to police the playgrounds and to police the places around town. If we don’t have enough cops, then hire them, bring in the FBI, bring in special agents. We count,” she said.

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Information from: KYUK-AM, https://www.kyuk.org

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