Legislature(2011 - 2012)CAPITOL 106

03/16/2012 08:00 AM EDUCATION


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08:05:05 AM Start
08:05:31 AM Confirmation Hearings: University of Alaska Board of Regents - Student Regent
08:23:41 AM Presentation: Skagway School District
08:45:46 AM SB137
09:54:00 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ - Confirmation Hearing: University of Alaska TELECONFERENCED
Board of Regents - Student Regent
+ - Presentation by Superintendent Jeff Thielbar, TELECONFERENCED
Skagway School District
+ - Discussion of Proposed Language State Education TELECONFERENCED
Standards by Dept. of Education & Early
Development
<Presentation Held Over to 3/19/12>
+ SB 137 SUICIDE AWARENESS & PREVENTION TRAINING TELECONFERENCED
Moved HCS SB 137(EDC) Out of Committee
         SB 137-SUICIDE AWARENESS & PREVENTION TRAINING                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
8:45:46 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DICK  announced that the  final order of business  would be                                                               
SENATE  BILL NO.  137, "An  Act requiring  suicide awareness  and                                                               
prevention training for certain school personnel."                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
8:46:32 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
TOM  OBERMEYER,  Staff  to Senator  Bettye  Davis,  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  presented SB  137,  paraphrasing  from the  sponsor                                                               
statement,   which   read   as  follows   [original   punctuation                                                               
provided]:                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     This bill,  short titled the Jason  Flatt Act, requires                                                                    
     mandatory  youth   suicide  awareness   and  prevention                                                                    
     training  approved by  the Commissioner,  Department of                                                                    
     Education  and  Early   Development  to  each  teacher,                                                                    
     administrator,   counselor,  and   specialist  who   is                                                                    
     employed  by a  school  district, regional  educational                                                                    
     attendance area,  or department each year  for services                                                                    
     to students  in grades  7-12.    Training  is important                                                                    
     because suicide is  the 3rd leading cause  of death for                                                                    
     ages  10-24  and the  number  one  cause of  death  for                                                                    
     Alaskans under the age 50 years.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     Awareness and  education are key to  prevention.  Tying                                                                    
     suicide  prevention efforts  into teacher  training has                                                                    
     proved very  helpful in other  states in  reducing teen                                                                    
     suicides.     Most young  people contemplating  suicide                                                                    
     show clear warning  signs prior to the attempt.   It is                                                                    
     imperative that  educators know how to  recognize signs                                                                    
     of  at-risk youth  and are  prepared to  intervene when                                                                    
     they identify a problem.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     Recognizing that Alaska has by  far the highest rate of                                                                    
     suicide per  capita in the country,  particularly among                                                                    
     teens,  young  men,  and  Alaska  Natives,  the  Alaska                                                                    
     Mental Health  Board and  Advisory Board  on Alcoholism                                                                    
     and  Drug  Abuse,  in partnership  with  the  Statewide                                                                    
     Suicide Prevention  Council, the Alaska  Association of                                                                    
     Student Governments, the University  of Alaska, and the                                                                    
     Jason  Foundation  have   established  goals,  training                                                                    
     programs,  and  resources  for teachers,  coaches,  and                                                                    
     staff in suicide prevention.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     The  Alaska   Bureau  of  Vital   Statistics  2000-2009                                                                    
     reported the following suicide facts and statistics:                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     21.8 suicides  per 100,000 Alaskans; vs.  11.5 suicides                                                                    
     per 100,000 nationwide                                                                                                     
     56.1 suicides  per 100,000 Alaskan  young men  ages 15-                                                                    
     24, and 141.6 Native young  men and 50.3 young women in                                                                    
     same age group.                                                                                                            
     1369 suicides  in 176  Alaska communities  between 2000                                                                    
     and 2009; 11 per month; 2.6 per week                                                                                       
     78% of suicides were committed  by men and 22% by women                                                                    
     who made twice as many but many more failed attempts                                                                       
     90% of  suicide victims  experience depression  or have                                                                    
     diagnosable  and treatable  mental health  or substance                                                                    
     abuse disorders                                                                                                            
     The 2011  Youth Risk  Behavior Survey revealed  that in                                                                    
     the last 12 months:                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     12.8%  Alaska   High  School  students   reported  they                                                                    
     seriously considered suicide                                                                                               
     8.7%  Alaska High  School  Students actually  attempted                                                                    
     suicide one or more times                                                                                                  
     2.7% Alaska  High School  Students -  attempted suicide                                                                    
     resulting in injury, poisoning,  or overdose treated by                                                                    
     a doctor or nurse                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
8:50:15 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. OBERMEYER interjected that this is a nationwide problem that                                                                
represents a high cost to society.  He then continued                                                                           
paraphrasing:                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     Just  as "it  takes a  village  to raise  a child,"  it                                                                    
     takes  parents, teachers,  mentors, and  communities to                                                                    
     support  efforts  to   reduce  suicides  by  developing                                                                    
     environments of  respect and connectedness  among youth                                                                    
     and adult role  models.  This will create  in youth the                                                                    
     needed  hope, promise,  and optimism  to build  healthy                                                                    
     and  appropriate  relationships   and  behaviors.    By                                                                    
     requiring  -  and  making  resources  available  for  -                                                                    
     suicide  prevention training  for educators  and school                                                                    
     staff  through  this  bill, the  state  of  Alaska  can                                                                    
     ensure that  youth at risk  of suicide are  more likely                                                                    
     to be identified and receive help.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     Alaska  has many  state agencies,  non-profits, private                                                                    
     citizens,  health  care  providers, and  policy  makers                                                                    
     working on  this problem  with programs  and materials.                                                                    
     This bill  is but  one part  of      suicide prevention                                                                    
     which  has  proven successful  in  other  states.   The                                                                    
     Jason Foundation which was named  after the tragic loss                                                                    
     of the founder's  son to suicide has  made available to                                                                    
     Alaska  and  a  limited  number  of  other  states  its                                                                    
     library  of suicide  awareness and  prevention training                                                                    
     materials free of charge.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     Not only  will this  bill and community  efforts reduce                                                                    
     suicides, particularly among vulnerable  youth,  but it                                                                    
     will also reduce the  number of self-inflicted injuries                                                                    
     occasioned in  over 1200 hospitalizations per  year due                                                                    
     to  suicide  attempts  at  cost   of  $9,000  per  case                                                                    
     excluding   physicians'  and   specialists'  fees,   as                                                                    
     researched  and reported  by the  Alaska Mental  Health                                                                    
     Trust Authority in 2001-2002.   The same research found                                                                    
     75%  of the  costs of  Alaska suicide  hospitalizations                                                                    
     were paid  through public funding sources  and 15% were                                                                    
     written off as losses by hospitals.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Suicides   and  attempted   suicides   have  taken   an                                                                    
     incalculable  toll  on   individuals  and  families  in                                                                    
     Alaska.    The burden  of  this  tragedy is  shared  by                                                                    
     society  as  a  whole.  With all  of  our  efforts  the                                                                    
     numbers have  not decreased very  much over  the years.                                                                    
     This bill,  admittedly not a  solution by  itself, will                                                                    
     help  reduce the  "silent  epidemic"  of youth  suicide                                                                    
     through educational  and awareness programs  that equip                                                                    
     young people, educators and parents  with the tools and                                                                    
     resources to help identify and assist at-risk youth.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
8:52:35 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. OBERMEYER then directed attention  to the statistics provided                                                               
in  the committee  packet, and  suggested that  members review  a                                                               
report  available online  from the  Statewide Suicide  Prevention                                                               
Council entitled, "Casting the Net  Upstream:  Promoting Wellness                                                               
to  Prevent Suicide,"  and accompanying  written comments  in the                                                               
committee packet by J. Kate Burkhart, executive director.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
8:53:39 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  asked what kind  of work is being  done to                                                               
identify the community profiles  and conditions for at-risk youth                                                               
and adults.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  OBERMEYER,   in  response,   read  from   page  17   of  the                                                               
aforementioned report as follows:                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     The  school districts  will implement  broad screenings                                                                    
     to identify not just ...  imminent risk of suicide, but                                                                    
     factors  for  suicide:     substance  abuse,  violence,                                                                    
     depression, et cetera.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. OBERMEYER  advised the program put  in place by the  bill has                                                               
been successful  in reducing the  number of suicides  among young                                                               
people by  working through the schools.   He said he  was shocked                                                               
at  the number  of suicides  nationwide, and  yet Alaska  has the                                                               
highest incidence in the country.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  DICK  relayed a  personal  story  of  a foster  child  who                                                               
appeared to be  doing well, but his change in  behavior was later                                                               
revealed as  a sign of his  impending suicide.  Chair  Dick said,                                                               
"Had I  known that  sign ...  Our family, 25  or 28  years later,                                                               
[is] still feeling the impact of that."                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
8:57:08 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI  asked for data to  support the statement                                                               
that teacher training has proved helpful in other states.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. OBERMEYER deferred to Mr. Clark Flatt.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
8:58:05 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  observed the Alaska rates  for suicide are                                                               
significantly higher than those of  other states, and that may be                                                               
contributed to by its location in  the Far North.  He referred to                                                               
HCR 5  - legislation  passed by the  Alaska State  Legislature in                                                               
April, 2011  - which recognized  factors further advanced  in the                                                               
book titled, Environment, Mood Disorders,  and Suicide.  The book                                                             
reveals   an  association   between   environment  and   suicide,                                                               
including  low  vitamin  D  levels  in  five  medical  conditions                                                               
related  to   suicide.    Representative  Seaton   expressed  his                                                               
frustration with addressing  this issue in the same way  as it is                                                               
handled in the Lower 48 -  through counseling - when there is the                                                               
possibility of a  basic medical condition in  Alaska, Canada, and                                                               
all  of  the  Far  North.   Recent  research  suggests  that  not                                                               
treating an underlying  medical condition, such as  low vitamin D                                                               
levels, associated  with suicide  may miss  part of  the problem,                                                               
although  the research  supporting  HCR 5  was  directed to  mood                                                               
disorders  and  seasonal affected  disorder.    He expressed  his                                                               
support of prevention  counseling, but wanted to  ensure that the                                                               
northern climate medical conditions are solved as well.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:01:29 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. OBERMEYER agreed  that climate and darkness  have been proven                                                               
to contribute  to alcoholism in  northern climates.   He returned                                                               
to Representative Kawasaki's question  and said that Iowa, Maine,                                                               
Maryland, New  Hampshire, Rhode  Island, Vermont,  and Washington                                                               
implement  suicide  prevention   education  in  school  curricula                                                               
through "Gatekeeper" prevention training.   He will make this and                                                               
further  information  from  the   National  Conference  of  State                                                               
Legislatures (NCSL) available after the hearing.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
9:02:23 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  agreed with  Representative Seaton  on the                                                               
need to consider  health issues.  She spoke of  the need to learn                                                               
more about  Alaska by profiling communities  that face challenges                                                               
in areas  of health, environment,  and others.  She  opined there                                                               
is  a need  for prehistory  analysis of  the state,  pointing out                                                               
that  one  of the  oldest  living  communities  on earth  is  the                                                               
village of  Nikolski in the  Aleutian Islands.  Further  study of                                                               
the lifestyle in  the communities that have survived  in Alaska -                                                               
even with  dietary deficiencies -  through all of the  changes in                                                               
time, is needed to understand  "what's going on."  Representative                                                               
Cissna said this is a task for the education community.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR.  OBERMEYER expressed  his belief  that  this is  not just  an                                                               
educational  problem,   but  is  also  being   addressed  by  the                                                               
Department   of  Health   and  Social   Services  (HSS)   through                                                               
behavioral health and mental health services.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
9:05:09 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PRUITT  moved  Amendment  1,  identified  as  27-                                                               
LS0994\M.l, Mischel, 2/16/12 which read:                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Page 1, line 9, following "training":                                                                                    
          Insert "; immunity"                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     Page 2, following line 7:                                                                                                  
     Insert new subsections to read:                                                                                            
          "(c)  A person may not bring a civil action for                                                                       
     damages against the  state or a school  district, or an                                                                    
     officer, agent,  or employee of  the state or  a school                                                                    
     district  for a  death,  personal  injury, or  property                                                                    
     damage  that  results  from  an   act  or  omission  in                                                                    
     performing or  failing to perform activities  or duties                                                                    
     authorized  under this  section.  This subsection  does                                                                    
     not apply to a civil action  for damages as a result of                                                                    
     intentional misconduct with  complete disregard for the                                                                    
     safety  and property  of  others.  In this  subsection,                                                                    
     "school district"  has the meaning given  "district" in                                                                    
     AS 14.17.990.                                                                                                              
          (d)  The training provided or the failure to                                                                          
     provide  training   under  this  section  may   not  be                                                                    
     construed  to impose  a specific  duty of  care on  any                                                                    
     person."                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON objected for the purpose of discussion.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. OBERMEYER  explained the  amendment addresses  court immunity                                                               
for teachers,  school personnel,  and school  districts providing                                                               
the service or receiving the  training.  Questions have arisen as                                                               
to  the  responsibility  of  a   teacher  whose  student  commits                                                               
suicide.  The  sponsor has been advised by  Legislative Legal and                                                               
Research   Services,  Legislative   Affairs   Agency,  that   the                                                               
amendment assures  personnel that  they would not  be responsible                                                               
through negligence on their part or the district's part.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:07:09 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON read from the amendment as follows:                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     A person may not bring a civil action for damages ...                                                                      
      for omission in failing to perform ... activities or                                                                      
     duties authorized under this section.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON surmised this  language means action cannot                                                               
be taken against a school district for not training its staff.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
9:08:03 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JEAN  MISCHEL, Attorney,  Legislative Legal  Counsel, Legislative                                                               
Legal   and  Research   Services,  Legislative   Affairs  Agency,                                                               
responded that  the immunity provision  is a  standard negligence                                                               
immunity which does not immunize  the school district, the state,                                                               
or their  personnel from  intentional misconduct.   Section  2 of                                                               
the bill is  a mandatory training requirement thus  if a district                                                               
refuses,  or  has  no  basis  for refusing  to  train,  a  causal                                                               
connection could be  made between a death or injury  and the lack                                                               
of training, and the district or state could be held liable.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON   asked,  "So  the   wording  'intentional                                                               
misconduct with  complete disregard  for the safety  and property                                                               
of others'  ... if  they decide  not to  have training  this year                                                               
because it is inconvenient, or  don't get an online course, would                                                               
that  be considered  misconduct with  complete disregard  for the                                                               
safety or property of others?"                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
9:10:07 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MISCHEL advised  a court  would need  to review  the factual                                                               
evidence if  this came to litigation.   For example, if  a school                                                               
district made  a financial decision  that the training  could not                                                               
be  afforded, or  another valid  or discretionary  policy reason,                                                               
the Alaska  Statutes (AS) -  Title 9  immunity would apply.   The                                                               
reasons   for  not   providing  the   training  would   determine                                                               
intentional  misconduct.    More  importantly, the  lack  of  the                                                               
training must  be found to be  the cause of the  injury or death,                                                               
which  is  a high  burden  for  a  plaintiff,  and that  is  also                                                               
included in the amendment.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON observed the  immunity appears to be broad,                                                               
and asked  if the immunity  language allowed districts  "to avoid                                                               
doing the purpose of the bill,"  which is to provide training for                                                               
suicide prevention.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS. MISCHEL said no, because  there are other provisions in Title                                                               
14 that  require school districts  to comply with state  law. The                                                               
immunity  provision pertains  to those  looking for  money as  an                                                               
enforcement mechanism;  in fact, there  are other ways  the state                                                               
can enforce the  provision.  She concluded that  the liability is                                                               
a policy call for the  legislature to determine whether the civil                                                               
lawsuit  for   monetary  damages   is  the   primary  enforcement                                                               
mechanism for this  kind of training, and she  did not anticipate                                                               
school  districts would  deny  employees  training and  disregard                                                               
state  law.   Further,  the  Department  of Education  and  Early                                                               
Development (EED) can force districts to provide the training.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
9:14:33 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON understood  that this  immunity would  not                                                               
confound the purpose of the bill.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. MISCHEL agreed.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:15:21 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  suggested that the amendment  adds another                                                               
layer  of  statutory  requirements  and additional  cost  to  the                                                               
school district.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. OBERMEYER  said the immunity  issue was initially  brought up                                                               
by the  Anchorage School  District and  was followed  by research                                                               
that indicated  other states have  provided extra immunity.   The                                                               
intent is  to ensure  that districts  participate in  the program                                                               
without  concern that  they may  be held  ultimately responsible.                                                               
He acknowledged  that the program is  not a "fix all,"  but seeks                                                               
to raise awareness.  He pointed  out that there is no fiscal note                                                               
attached to  the bill, as the  program is provided free,  and the                                                               
teachers  are  not  required  to  use  class  time,  because  the                                                               
training  can  be part  of  their  continuing education  elective                                                               
hours.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  said the  amendment represents  details of                                                               
the law,  but not the  issue of the  legislation.  The  issue is:                                                               
surrounding our children  with the idea of their  importance in a                                                               
world  that makes  sense.   She concluded  that this  is not  the                                                               
proper approach.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
9:20:38 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON removed his objection.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA objected.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  DICK,  in  response to  Representative  Seaton,  said  the                                                               
amendment offered was Amendment 1.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
9:21:10 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
A  roll call  vote was  taken.   Representatives Seaton,  Pruitt,                                                               
Kawasaki,   and   Dick   voted   in   favor   of   Amendment   1.                                                               
Representative Cissna  voted against it.   Therefore, Amendment 1                                                               
was adopted by a vote of 4-1.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
[Although  Chair Dick  announced Amendment  M.1 was  adopted, the                                                               
motion was  to move Amendment 1,  and it was clear  the intent of                                                               
the committee was to adopt Amendment 1.]                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:22:27 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DICK opened public testimony.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:22:47 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ANN SCHAACK,  Representative, North  Star Behavioral  Health; The                                                               
Jason Foundation,  informed the  committee North  Star Behavioral                                                               
Health provides  children and adolescents  from across  the state                                                               
with acute behavioral health  services and residential treatment.                                                               
Ms.  Schaack said  she also  represents Alaska's  first affiliate                                                               
office  of  The  Jason  Foundation, which  is  dedicated  to  the                                                               
prevention  of youth  suicide  through  education and  awareness.                                                               
She spoke  in support of  the bill, saying that  school personnel                                                               
are in a  key position to identify at-risk youth,  and to connect                                                               
them  with  support.    Her organizations  look  forward  to  the                                                               
opportunity  to equip  educators  and school  personnel with  the                                                               
tools and resources to assist at-risk youth.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
9:23:52 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CAROL WATERS,  Executive Director, Alaska Association  of Student                                                               
Governments  (AASG), stated  AASG is  a student-led  organization                                                               
which has  been working for  the prevention of youth  suicide for                                                               
three years, and  is in strong support of the  bill.  She related                                                               
that  many students  have asked  for suicide  prevention training                                                               
for school personnel because they  need support from teachers and                                                               
other  staff.     Ms.  Waters  said  that   schools  often  offer                                                               
counseling after a suicide, but support should be preventative.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
9:25:21 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
J.   KATE  BURKHART,   Executive   Director,  Statewide   Suicide                                                               
Prevention Council;  Alaska Mental  Health Board;  Advisory Board                                                               
on  Alcoholism   &  Drug  Abuse,  Central   Office,  Division  of                                                               
Behavioral Health, DHSS,  said she was speaking on  behalf of the                                                               
aforementioned organizations.   The Statewide  Suicide Prevention                                                               
Council supports SB 137, and she  said the bill is a step forward                                                               
to  achieving  one  of  the strategies  in  the  state's  suicide                                                               
prevention  plan:   to provide  suicide prevention  and awareness                                                               
training  to  all  school  personnel, from  the  janitor  to  the                                                               
principal.   She said the bill  directs two hours of  training to                                                               
educators and support staff which  will also provide her division                                                               
with  opportunity  to  evaluate  the  effectiveness  of  educator                                                               
training.   Ms. Burkhart  pointed out  that the  bill has  a zero                                                               
fiscal  note  because there  are  resources  available to  school                                                               
districts at no cost and with  no burden to educators.  The Jason                                                               
Foundation  also  provides  to  school  districts  a  library  of                                                               
resources on DVD, curricula  appropriate for teacher in-services,                                                               
and online training.  Further,  the Division of Behavioral Health                                                               
offers the Gatekeeper program that  was designed in Alaska and is                                                               
currently  in use  by  the Fairbanks  North  Star Borough  School                                                               
District.    The  Alaska  Native  Tribal  Health  Consortium  and                                                               
Southcentral Foundation  both offer Applied  Suicide Intervention                                                               
Skills (ASIT) training at no  cost.  Ms. Burkhart emphasized that                                                               
suicide has  a "web" of  causality:  There  is no one  cause, and                                                               
there is no one  solution.  However, SB 137 is  part of a network                                                               
of  solutions,  and will  ensure  that  educators understand  the                                                               
warning  signs  of  suicide.   She  expressed  her  concern  over                                                               
comments that  living in  rural Alaska,  or being  Alaska Native,                                                               
are risk  factors for  suicide; in fact,  the greatest  number of                                                               
suicides  occur in  the Anchorage  area thus  suicide should  not                                                               
stigmatize one ethnicity or one  type of community.  Instead, the                                                               
focus  should be  to promote  wellness and  strengthen everyone's                                                               
ability  to resist  life's challenges  and respond  in a  healthy                                                               
way.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
9:29:36 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KAWASAKI  noted  that  Ms.  Burkhart's  testimony                                                               
referred to training for all  school personnel; however, the bill                                                               
language specifies that prevention  training would be provided to                                                               
each teacher, administrator, counselor, and specialist.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BURKHART  said  the  Statewide  Suicide  Prevention  Council                                                               
recommendation  is  that everyone  affiliated  in  a school  gets                                                               
training, including coaches and maintenance people.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:30:30 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  observed that the first  Alaskans may have                                                               
been  the healthiest  people to  have  ever lived  here, as  they                                                               
survived for millennia.   Western society has been  in Alaska for                                                               
about 200 years,  yet is creating a  cultural transformation with                                                               
serious problems.  She shared a  personal story of suicide in her                                                               
family and stressed  the need to understand the  web of causality                                                               
affecting Alaskans of all ages.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
9:32:53 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. BURKHART,  in response to  Representative Kawasaki,  said the                                                               
length of the training course mandated  by the bill is two hours;                                                               
however, online  courses may  last from  one-half to  three days,                                                               
and the  districts will be able  to choose what courses  to offer                                                               
from a list approved by EED.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
9:34:04 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JAMES  BIELA,  Representative,  American Foundation  for  Suicide                                                               
Prevention-Alaska   Chapter,   stated   support   for   SB   137,                                                               
paraphrasing  from a  prepared  statement,  which read  [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     I  am  calling  in  support  for  SB137  on  behalf  of                                                                    
     American   Foundation  for   Suicide  Prevention-Alaska                                                                    
     Chapter as  a Field Advocate.   I am employed  with the                                                                    
     Lower  Kuskokwim School  District  as Itinerant  School                                                                    
     Social Worker  and I am  a registered trainer  with the                                                                    
     Applied Suicide Intervention  Skills Training, known as                                                                    
     ASIST.    I  am   assigned  five  villages  across  the                                                                    
     district and  work with  families, students  and school                                                                    
     personnel.    I am  also used  as a first  responder to                                                                    
     those villages when  there is a suicide.   Teachers and                                                                    
     school  employees   are  the  main  contacts   for  our                                                                    
     students in  the villages.   Often teachers  will refer                                                                    
     students  for  sudden  changes  in  behavior  yet  feel                                                                    
     uninformed on the signs of suicide.                                                                                        
     Back in  Dec. 2010 an  ASIST training was  completed at                                                                    
     one   village  school   with  teachers,   students  and                                                                    
     community members.  One teacher  did not want to attend                                                                    
     this particular  training.  Within 24  hours after this                                                                    
     training the  teacher was able to  identify one student                                                                    
     who  was  on  the   verge  of  committing  suicide  and                                                                    
     contacted  myself  for assistance.    We  were able  to                                                                    
     secure an  immediate referral to YK  Behavioral Health.                                                                    
     This student had his plan  to commit suicide and if the                                                                    
     teacher  did  not  have  the  skills  to  identify  and                                                                    
     intervene this  one student  could be  deceased.    The                                                                    
     teacher  now   admits  that  this  training   was  very                                                                    
     valuable and  was one of the  best in-service trainings                                                                    
     he had.                                                                                                                    
     We just  completed another  training that  involved our                                                                    
     teachers and  community members with  the ASIST  and we                                                                    
     have 4 more  scheduled in the next month  in our school                                                                    
     district.  The trainings  are done  at no  cost to  the                                                                    
     district.   Although we are  currently using  the ASIST                                                                    
     program, there are many more  programs that can be done                                                                    
     in less time.  With the  high rates of suicides in this                                                                    
     area the  more trainings for those  who have consistent                                                                    
     contact with the students  will prevent further deaths.                                                                    
     Finally  today I  was able  to pull  up my  stats since                                                                    
     august of 2011  and so far a total of  79 students have                                                                    
     been seen in  those five villages of  which one attempt                                                                    
     was made in the school setting.   If it was not for the                                                                    
     awareness of  those teachers  trained there  could have                                                                    
     been more attempts and possibly  completed suicides.  I                                                                    
     encourage you  to pass  SB137 also  known as  the Jason                                                                    
     Flatt  Act. Finally  I thank  you for  listening to  my                                                                    
     testimony on behalf of SB137.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
9:36:33 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CLARK  FLATT,  President/CEO,  The   Jason  Foundation,  said  on                                                               
7/16/97 he  lost his youngest son  to suicide.  Later  that year,                                                               
in his son's memory, The  Jason Foundation was begun, which today                                                               
has 87 offices  located in 33 states.  When  the affiliate office                                                               
opened at  North Star Behavioral  Health in Anchorage,  Mr. Flatt                                                               
visited  Alaska, and  spoke with  Senator Davis  about the  Jason                                                               
Flatt  Act.   This  legislation  has  now  been passed  in  eight                                                               
states, and  the foundation continues  to work with  the American                                                               
Foundation for  Suicide Prevention to  introduce the act  in more                                                               
states.  In response to  an earlier question regarding the impact                                                               
of  teacher training,  Mr.  Flatt advised  the  longest study  in                                                               
support  of  teacher  prevention  training  has  taken  place  in                                                               
Tennessee, where  the Jason  Flatt Act  was enacted  in 2007.   A                                                               
report issued  in 2010 revealed  there was a 17  percent decrease                                                               
in youth suicide  during one year in that state.   He agreed with                                                               
previous  testimony   that  the  causes  of   suicide  cannot  be                                                               
addressed  by one  endeavor, however,  in Tennessee  this is  the                                                               
fourth  year in  a row  that 74,000  teachers have  been trained,                                                               
resulting  in many  instances of  early  recognition of  suicidal                                                               
ideation,  "which is  a key  to  a successful  prevention."   The                                                               
Jason Foundation  is proud to  introduce the Jason Flatt  Act and                                                               
to  provide   the  successful  model  for   legislation  that  is                                                               
effective  without a  fiscal  note through  the  support of  many                                                               
organizations working  together.  He  concluded that this  is not                                                               
the complete answer, but can make an impact in Alaska.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:40:08 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SHARON  STRUTZ NORTON,  Nurse Practitioner;  Secretary and  Field                                                               
Advocate,  American  Foundation  for Suicide  Prevention  (AFSP),                                                               
disclosed  that  she  is  a   member  of  the  Statewide  Suicide                                                               
Prevention Council, and  she was speaking on her own  behalf as a                                                               
family suicide survivor, and for  AFSP.  Ms. Strutz Norton stated                                                               
support  for  SB 137,  relating  that  in  her work  for  suicide                                                               
awareness  and  prevention she  has  been  approached by  several                                                               
youth ranging  in age from middle  school to high school.   These                                                               
students shared stories of friends  who are stressed or depressed                                                               
for a  variety of reasons, and  talking of suicide.   Since then,                                                               
youth  in  Homer and  throughout  the  state have  attempted  and                                                               
completed the act  of suicide.  Ms. Strutz Norton  has also heard                                                               
from  school  counselors  of  the  effect  of  grief  on  student                                                               
survivors.   She  advised that  the  implementation of  education                                                               
training models  has increased the  likelihood that  school staff                                                               
members have the knowledge and  confidence to approach an at-risk                                                               
student and to assist them.   Recent research from the University                                                               
of  Washington on  eight hundred  and  eighty-three eighteen-  to                                                               
nineteen-year-olds  who attempted  suicide indicated  that almost                                                               
40 percent made  their first attempt before high  school.  Sadly,                                                               
there  were three  suicides of  young  adult men  in Seward,  and                                                               
although they  were not students,  she expressed her  belief that                                                               
passage  of  a bill  mandating  that  all school  personnel  have                                                               
suicide  prevention education  may have  a significant  impact on                                                               
youth suicide outcomes.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:43:09 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
BARB  ANGAIAK, President,  National Education  Association-Alaska                                                               
(NEA-Alaska),  stated  NEA-Alaska   represents  13,000  educators                                                               
across the state and is in strong  support of SB 137.  She opined                                                               
there  is no  training more  important  or that  would have  more                                                               
potential beneficial impact on every  student.  She observed that                                                               
tragically,  this issue  affects  every community  in the  state.                                                               
She  assured  the  committee  there is  a  variety  of  effective                                                               
programs available  and she supported  the idea that  each school                                                               
district  would choose  the most  appropriate for  its community.                                                               
Ms.  Angaiak  agreed with  previous  testimony  that the  program                                                               
should  be expanded  to  include every  educator  and all  school                                                               
workers; in  fact, everyone  with student  contact in  the public                                                               
education system  needs this  training.   Often students  at risk                                                               
develop  a strong  relationship  with school  support staff  thus                                                               
everyone needs  the training  to ensure  they have  the expertise                                                               
and knowledge to assist.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:46:39 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DICK closed public testimony.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  said  he   has  been  encouraged  by  his                                                               
constituents  to broaden  the bill  to mandate  training for  all                                                               
school employees, but he said  he would not offer that amendment,                                                               
explaining  that  the bill  currently  has  a zero  fiscal  note;                                                               
however,  expansion  of  the  bill's   mandate  to  require  that                                                               
everyone is trained would require  a fiscal note and threaten the                                                               
passage of the bill.  He  expressed his hope the school districts                                                               
will proceed with  the training and offer it to  the personnel in                                                               
the school system.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
9:48:15 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI directed attention to  line 9 of the bill                                                               
and read:                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
       [A] school district, regional education attendance                                                                       
     area and the department shall annually provide ...                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   KAWASAKI   asked   who   would   be   ultimately                                                               
responsible to provide the training.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
9:48:50 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. OBERMEYER deferred to EED.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
9:49:57 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. MISCHEL advised the bill  requires the commissioner of EED to                                                               
approve  the  training and  that  the  school district,  regional                                                               
educational  attendance  area (REA)  and  EED  each provide  that                                                               
training to  its own employees.   She  added that EED  would have                                                               
the ability to require each district and REA to comply.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:50:50 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KAWASAKI  then  asked   whether  a  counselor  or                                                               
administrator working  at a regional  public health  center would                                                               
be required to take the training.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MISCHEL,  after  ascertaining  Representative  Kawasaki  was                                                               
referring to  employees of EED,  said, "These are people  who are                                                               
employed by  the state or  school district  or REA as  a teacher,                                                               
administrator,  counselor  or  specialist.  And  the  reason  the                                                               
department is  listed separately is  because they function  as an                                                               
employer of some of those  individuals through the state boarding                                                               
school and other statewide programs."                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
9:51:59 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PRUITT  moved  to  report  SB  137,  Version  27-                                                               
LS0994\M,   as  amended,   out  of   committee  with   individual                                                               
recommendations and  the accompanying fiscal notes.   There being                                                               
no  objection,  HCS  SB  137(EDC) was  reported  from  the  House                                                               
Education Standing Committee.                                                                                                   

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 137 27-LS0994M.pdf HEDC 3/16/2012 8:00:00 AM
SB 137 -Leg Memo- Immunintyamend 2-17-2012.pdf HEDC 3/16/2012 8:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 137- Amendment M 1 3-14-2012.pdf HEDC 3/16/2012 8:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 137 Documents - CDC statistics 2011.pdf HEDC 3/16/2012 8:00:00 AM
SB 137
Confirmation Univ of Alaska Bd of Regents - Freitag.pdf HEDC 3/16/2012 8:00:00 AM
Legislative Confirmation UA Board of Regents