Legislature(2005 - 2006)HOUSE FINANCE 519

03/08/2005 01:30 PM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Moved CSHB 97(FIN) Out of Committee
Moved Out of Committee
SENATE BILL NO. 60                                                                                                            
     "An Act extending the termination  date of the Statewide                                                                   
     Suicide  Prevention   Council;  and  providing   for  an                                                                   
     effective date."                                                                                                           
Representative Hawker MOVED to ADOPT Amendment 1:                                                                               
     Page 1, line 4 through Page 1, line 6                                                                                      
     Delete all material                                                                                                        
     "* Section 1. The uncodified  law of the State of Alaska                                                                 
     is amended by adding a new section                                                                                         
     to read:                                                                                                                   
     REPORT TO THE LEGISLATURE.  The Department of Health and                                                                   
     Social   Services  shall   investigate  the  legal   and                                                                   
     practical  viability of merging  the Suicide  Prevention                                                                   
     Council   into  an   existing  advisory   board  or   an                                                                   
     integrated  behavioral health  advisory board  combining                                                                   
     the  activities of  one  or more  of  these boards.  The                                                                   
     department shall report its  findings to the legislature                                                                   
     by the  30th day  of the Second  Regular Session  of the                                                                   
     Twenty- Fourth Alaska State Legislature.                                                                                   
     *  Sec.  2. AS  44.66.010(8)  is  amended to  read:  (8)                                                                 
     Statewide  Suicide Prevention  Council (AS 44.29.300)  -                                                                   
     June 30, 2006 [2005];"                                                                                                   
Representative Weyhrauch OBJECTED for discussion purposes.                                                                      
Representative  Hawker  explained  the reasoning  behind  the                                                                   
amendment.   He  noted  that there  are  five major  advisory                                                                   
boards and  a newly proposed  board within the  Department of                                                                   
Health and  Social Services.   He suggested combining  boards                                                                   
for  more  efficient   management  and  cost   savings.    He                                                                   
questioned  whether  the  Suicide  Prevention  Council  could                                                                   
accomplish its  established goals within the  huge Department                                                                   
of Health  and Social  Services.  The  FY 06 budget  proposal                                                                   
would merge management  responsibilities for two  of the five                                                                   
boards,  the Mental  Health Board  and the  Alcohol and  Drug                                                                   
Abuse Advisory Board.  He further  suggested that the Suicide                                                                   
Prevention Council  merge with  the two previously  mentioned                                                                   
boards  creating  an integrated  behavioral  health  advisory                                                                   
board  for the Mental  Health  Trust.  He  concluded that  it                                                                   
might be appropriate to consider  a one-year extension of the                                                                   
Suicide Prevention  Council and  then re-evaluate  the merger                                                                   
next session.   He  requested that  the Department  of Health                                                                   
and Social Services continue to look for efficiencies.                                                                          
1:54:07 PM                                                                                                                    
SHANNON STRAUBE,  STAFF, SENATOR  BEN STEVENS, spoke  against                                                                   
Amendment 1  on behalf of the  sponsor.  She  maintained that                                                                   
the Suicide Prevention  Council has just begun  its work, and                                                                   
recently  issued  a statewide  plan  coordinating  community,                                                                   
private, and  public efforts  to curb  suicide.  She  related                                                                   
that  Senator  Stevens  would  prefer  to  have  the  Council                                                                   
extended until 2009.                                                                                                            
Representative Hawker opined that  there is no right or wrong                                                                   
answer as to what  to do with the Council.   He asked whether                                                                   
the   Council  or   the  Department   prepared  the   suicide                                                                   
prevention plan.  Ms. Straube  explained that the information                                                                   
was gathered  from several  sources and  put together  by the                                                                   
Council.   Representative Hawker  asked if the  Council needs                                                                   
more resources  to accomplish  its mission,  and if  it would                                                                   
benefit by being a part of an  integrated board.  Ms. Straube                                                                   
replied  that the  sponsor would  prefer that  it be a  "sole                                                                   
purpose" board  now, but  that could be  looked at  later on.                                                                   
Representative  Hawker  stated   that  the  amendment  simply                                                                   
points out concerns to the sponsor  and to the Department and                                                                   
highlights  an  effort  to become  more  involved  in  budget                                                                   
In response to a question from  Representative Weyhrauch, Ms.                                                                   
Straube  replied that  the  sunset  date in  HB  97 is  2009.                                                                   
Representative  Weyhrauch asked for  feedback on the  idea of                                                                   
the  Department  reporting  back   to  the  legislature  next                                                                   
session.   Ms. Straube suggested  that Jeanie  Sparks, Chair,                                                                   
Statewide   Suicide  Prevention   Council,  comment   on  the                                                                   
amendment.     Representative   Weyhrauch   asked  what   the                                                                   
viability of  such a merge would  be.  Ms.  Straube suggested                                                                   
that  going year  to  year might  focus  the  council on  its                                                                   
perpetuation and not on its mission.                                                                                            
1:59:37 PM                                                                                                                    
JEANINE SPARKS, CHAIR, STATEWIDE  SUICIDE PREVENTION COUNCIL,                                                                   
addressed  Representative Weyhrauch's  question.  She  agreed                                                                   
with Ms.  Straube that the  council should be  extended until                                                                   
2009.   She emphasized  that last  year a  lot of energy  was                                                                   
spent on discussing possible mergers,  filling positions, and                                                                   
undergoing an  audit, which distracted  the council  from its                                                                   
mission.  She  related that she helped write  the state plan,                                                                   
which  had input  from  Susan Soule  from  the Department  of                                                                   
Health and Social Services and  federal advisement from Peggy                                                                   
Vice-Chair Stoltze voiced support  for the council itself and                                                                   
appreciation for the discussion,  which assists the committee                                                                   
in helping the council realize its mission.                                                                                     
Representative  Joule  shared  his  past  experience  on  the                                                                   
Advisory Board for Alcohol and  Drug Abuse and on the Interim                                                                   
Commission on Children and Youth.   Attention to the issue of                                                                   
suicide often fell  short because of all the  existing needs.                                                                   
He  suggested that  once  the council  gets  its footing,  it                                                                   
would be worthwhile to have this discussion again.                                                                              
2:04:30 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Kelly reported  that he attended an impressive                                                                   
Wellness Warriors  presentation and  said it is  difficult to                                                                   
be against  suicide prevention.   He questioned  whether this                                                                   
is the best method to prevent  suicide.  He shared a personal                                                                   
story and called suicide prevention  worthwhile, but wondered                                                                   
if this  is the right  vehicle.  He  concluded that  he would                                                                   
support HB 97.                                                                                                                  
Representative  Holm  agreed with  Representative  Kelly  and                                                                   
mentioned the issue  of accountability.  He  wondered if this                                                                   
structure would lower  the incidence of suicide.   He pointed                                                                   
out  that  suicide is  regional,  and  he questioned  if  the                                                                   
council appropriately represented  the regions most affected.                                                                   
Representative Hawker WITHDREW  Amendment 1, deferring to the                                                                   
wishes of the sponsor.                                                                                                          
2:08:07 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Foster MOVED to  report HCS SB 60 (FIN) out of                                                                   
Committee   with    individual   recommendations    and   the                                                                   
accompanying fiscal  note.  There being NO  OBJECTION, it was                                                                   
so ordered.                                                                                                                     
HCS SB  60 (FIN)  was REPORTED  out of  Committee with  a "do                                                                   
pass"  recommendation  and  a   previously  published  fiscal                                                                   
impact  note #  2  by the  Department  of Health  and  Social                                                                   

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