Legislature(2017 - 2018)CAPITOL 106
04/17/2018 03:00 PM HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES
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SB 208-MARCH: SOBRIETY AWARENESS MONTH 5:00:56 PM CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ announced that the final order of business would be SENATE BILL NO. 208, "An Act establishing the month of March as Sobriety Awareness Month." 5:01:28 PM JACOB TATUM, Staff, Senator Berta Gardner, Alaska State Legislature, presented the proposed bill and read from a prepared statement [original punctuation provided]: For the record my name is Jacob Tatum, staff to Senator Berta Gardner. Madame Chair, members of the committee, good evening and thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before you on the importance of permanently recognizing March as Sobriety Awareness Month. Unfortunately, Senator Gardner could not be here today, but the sponsor wanted to be sure to thank Chair Spohnholz for truly paving the way for this legislation; for sharing her personal story and all the work that she has done and continues to do in the area of substance abuse treatment and recovery. So, on behalf of Senator Gardner, Chair Spohnholz, THANK YOU. On a similar note, there have been many other individuals and organizations that have contributed greatly to the cause of sobriety in Alaska, whom, without their efforts, this legislation might not be possible. Specifically, the sponsor would like to recognize the Alaska Federation of Natives, who originally passed a resolution in 1989 to start the AFN Sobriety Movement and for, in 1996, encouraging Alaska lawmakers to add statutory language in the form of AS 47.37.010, which reads, "It is the policy of the state to recognize, appreciate, and reinforce the example set by its citizens who lead, believe in, and support a life of sobriety". Another individual is musher and sobriety activist Mike Williams, who ran the 1992 Iditarod carrying 10,000 signatures pledging sobriety, in what became known as the "Idita-pledge for Sobriety" and is a key reason for the selection of the month of March. Another person is former Representative Irene Nicholia of Tanana who first passed a resolution to recognize Sobriety Awareness Month in 1995, making Alaska the first state in the Union to recognize sobriety as a lifestyle. To all of these folks, THANK YOU. So, without further ado? SB 208 celebrates and calls attention to the efforts of the many Alaskans who live healthy lives free of mind and mood-altering substances by establishing March as Sobriety Awareness Month. As you all know, Alaska experiences some of the highest rates of substance abuse in the nation, at a total economic cost to the state of nearly $3 billion, not to mention the immeasurable cost to Alaskan communities and families that cannot be captured by a simple dollar amount. 5:04:00 PM With this legislation, it is the intention of the sponsor and cosponsors, to promote and celebrate the tens of thousands of Alaskans who live their lives free of mind and mood-altering substances, in order to not only mitigate the costs associated with substance abuse, but perhaps even more importantly, to help foster a culture that is conscious of this State's multi-faceted substance abuse challenges and how they can ultimately be overcome. Furthermore, sobriety has also been recognized as a youth protective factor that is strongly correlated with lower rates of future substance abuse and overall positive life outcomes; so, by recognizing a month for the sobriety movement, it is the hope that the state of Alaska will help establish positive social norms and send a message to young people that, "contrary what they might think, the majority of their peers in fact do not use alcohol and drugs." So, in summary: By passing SB 208, permanently recognizing March as Sobriety Awareness Month, the state of Alaska will accomplish 4 key goals. 1. Meeting Alaska policy under Alaska Statue 47.37.010, which I referred to earlier. 2. Mitigate the costs, both economic and otherwise, associated with substance abuse. 3. Set an example for the younger generation, and perhaps adults too, with positive social norms, that communicate that alcohol and drugs are in no way essential or necessary for enjoying life. 4. To celebrate people living sober lifestyles and break down the stigma around sobriety, both for those who freely choose to abstain and those who are in long-term recovery, for these people truly are an asset to the State of Alaska, its communities and families. 5:06:39 PM CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ opened invited testimony on SB 208. 5:06:50 PM TIFFANY HALL, Executive Director, Recover Alaska, reported that Recover Alaska worked to reduce excessive alcohol use and harms across the state, as alcohol was recognized as the number one health issue in Alaska. She reported that, as alcohol cost the state $1.84 billion every year, the goals of Recover Alaska was for prevention, treatment and recovery, and a change for social norms around alcohol. She noted that funding for these recovery programs was often tied to metrics, and that it was very hard to capture metrics about recovery. She declared that community was a big part of recovery, and although there were not quantitative numbers, there was a lot of qualitative feedback. She shared a personal anecdote about recovery and the shame of addiction. She reported that 78 percent of high schoolers did not drink alcohol. She pointed out that, as it was necessary for role models, Recover Alaska highlighted Alaskans in sobriety and honored and celebrated this choice. 5:11:09 PM CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ opened public testimony and after ascertaining no one wished to testify, closed public testimony on SB 208. 5:11:21 PM CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ shared that she was a strong personal advocate for sobriety and that Sobriety Awareness Month was an opportunity for celebration of the choice for a sober life. She pointed to the importance of shining light on "what recovery looks like and what sobriety looks like for people." She shared that she was in long term recovery, had not had a drink in more than 16 years, and that sobriety had made her life "more joyful and meaningful and satisfying in a lot of ways." She expressed her hope that more people would recognize the empowerment that could come from sobriety and the role models in sobriety that could allow celebration for the choice not to drink. 5:13:17 PM REPRESENTATIVE ZULKOSKY moved to report SB 208, Version 30- LS1470\A, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, SB 208 was moved from the House Health and Social Services Standing Committee.