Legislature(2005 - 2006)HOUSE FINANCE 519
03/08/2005 01:30 PM FINANCE
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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 Insert "* 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 ;" 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 decisions. 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 West. 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 Services.