Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 106

03/15/2005 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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HCR  4-METH WATCH PROGRAM                                                                                                     
8:07:42 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON announced  that  the first  order  of business  was                                                               
HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO.  4, Encouraging the establishment                                                               
of a methamphetamine watch program.                                                                                             
8:07:51 AM                                                                                                                    
JANE PIERSON,  Staff to Representative  Jay Ramras,  Alaska State                                                               
Legislature,  introduced  HCR  4   on  behalf  of  Representative                                                               
Ramras, sponsor.  She stated  that communities across America are                                                               
suffering from the plague  of methamphetamine ("meth") production                                                               
and usage.   She said "Meth  watch" is the first  national effort                                                               
in curbing  the spread of meth;  it will provide a  critical step                                                               
in educating communities about the  drug.  Ms. Pierson said "Meth                                                               
watch"  is  a voluntary  program  that  started  in Kansas  as  a                                                               
public/private partnership  in 2001.   Currently, 11  states have                                                               
implemented the  program, and  22 states  are looking  into doing                                                               
so.   The goals  of the  program are:   to engage  retailers, law                                                               
enforcement, state and local agencies,  and other key partners to                                                               
reduce  the  precursor  products  for  illicit  manufacturing  of                                                               
methamphetamines; to increase community  awareness; and to assist                                                               
local communities in addressing the  problem.  She emphasized the                                                               
important link between  education of citizens and  the capture of                                                               
meth manufacturers.   She said  all public  awareness initiatives                                                               
would  be  tailored  to  targeted  audiences.    She  added  that                                                               
specific programs  can be tailored  to child  protective workers,                                                               
utility workers,  cable operators,  and various  community "first                                                               
8:09:30 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  PIERSON  listed  the  different ways  that  the  program  is                                                               
promoted.   She  reported  that since  implementing the  program,                                                               
Kansas  has reported  benefits,  including the  reduction in  the                                                               
number  of meth  labs and  unifying  grant programs  to fund  and                                                               
educate  communities.    She  said  there  are  prerequisites  to                                                               
receiving  funding.    Communities   applying  for  grants  shall                                                               
prioritize meth  prevention and  education, have  past experience                                                               
in  community coalition  building,  and be  part  of an  existing                                                               
coalition  that includes  medical  and  public health  officials,                                                               
educators, youth-serving community  organizations, and members of                                                               
law  enforcement.    She  said  that  the  bill  will:  authorize                                                               
professional prevention  staff to  develop research  and science-                                                               
based  prevention  strategies for  the  community  to be  served;                                                               
demonstrate  the  ability  to   operate  a  community-based  meth                                                               
prevention  and education  program; establish  prevalence through                                                               
the use of  community needs assessments; and  establish goals and                                                               
objectives based on need assessment.                                                                                            
MS. PIERSON  stated that  the appropriate  money for  fiscal year                                                               
(FY)  2006-07 should  be  asked  for from  the  general fund  and                                                               
Department  of Health  and Social  Services for  grants under  AS                                                               
47.30.520 through AS 47.30.620.                                                                                                 
8:11:15 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  noted that the committee  packet contains                                                               
a  press release  from  Kansas, dated  September  17, that  lists                                                               
workshops that have been done in  various states.  She noted that                                                               
the  press release  includes mention  that Alaska  has asked  the                                                               
Kansas  Department  of Health  and  Education  for assistance  in                                                               
setting up a  meth watch program.  She pointed  out that there is                                                               
another press release in the  committee packet dated February 20,                                                               
2005, that  lists Alaska as  one of  the states that  has already                                                               
been assisted  in implementing a  meth watch program.   She asked                                                               
Ms.  Pierson if  she  knows where  Alaska is  in  the process  of                                                               
setting up a program.                                                                                                           
8:11:54 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. PIERSON replied that Prince  of Wales Island has instigated a                                                               
meth  awareness  program that  is  not  the official  meth  watch                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked what a meth awareness program is.                                                                    
MS. PIERSON  replied that the  program would:  make  people aware                                                               
of the drug and its effects;  teach people what signs to look for                                                               
to detect  a meth lab  in their community; and  educate children,                                                               
teachers, and retailers.                                                                                                        
8:12:43 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  commented that reducing the  number of labs                                                               
may not necessarily  go hand in hand with reducing  the amount of                                                               
meth  that  enters a  community.    He  explained, "It's  a  free                                                               
market, and  if somebody  goes out  of business,  somebody [else]                                                               
takes up the slack."                                                                                                            
8:13:13 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  PIERSON,  in  response to  a  question  from  Representative                                                               
Gatto, said she  thinks the system is two-fold,  because it would                                                               
reduce  the  supply of  the  precursor  chemicals and  bring  the                                                               
awareness into the community of what is happening.                                                                              
8:13:37 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  RAMRAS   commented  that   the  work   with  [the                                                               
Department  of Health  and Social  Services (DHSS)]  on HCR  4 is                                                               
being  done in  conjunction with  HB  149, which  deals with  the                                                               
supply  of  pseudoephedrine.     Additionally,  he  indicated  an                                                               
increase   of  penalties   "for   child   endangerment  and   for                                                               
manslaughter for cooking up a bad  batch of meth."  He noted that                                                               
[the Division of Juvenile Justice  in DHSS] already has extensive                                                               
school programs.  He mentioned  juvenile court, intervention, and                                                               
substance abuse programs.  He  added, "So we anticipate that this                                                               
meth  watch  would  be  the  education  component  and  it's  not                                                               
designed  to   create  funding  for   another  position   in  law                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS  stated that  meth is  cooked up  in little                                                               
kitchens  in people's  homes,  and often  children  are in  those                                                               
homes - sometimes  even participating in the making  of the meth.                                                               
He indicated that urban areas  may retail the meth, whereas rural                                                               
areas have the small labs.   He named the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-                                                               
Su) Valley and North Pole as  area in the state where the problem                                                               
is more severe.                                                                                                                 
8:15:56 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  asked if,  under current law,  a retailer                                                               
can refuse to sell pseudoephedrine to people.                                                                                   
MS.  PIERSON replied  that she  didn't know  if a  retailer could                                                               
refuse  the  sale,  but  he/she  could  call  the  police.    She                                                               
mentioned that Kansas has a reporting form.                                                                                     
8:16:51 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG directed attention to page 2, lines 20-                                                                
26, which read as follows:                                                                                                      
          BE IT RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature                                                                    
     urges the  Department of Health and  Social Services to                                                                    
     take the lead  in establishing a meth  watch program in                                                                    
     Alaska, to apply for available  grants from the federal                                                                    
     government,  and to  request appropriation  of matching                                                                    
     funds by the Alaska  State Legislature if necessary, to                                                                    
     encourage other eligible entities  to apply for funding                                                                    
     from  both government  and private  sources, to  assist                                                                    
     community  organizations in  applying  for funding  and                                                                    
     implementing  local meth  watch programs,  and to  help                                                                    
     educate  Alaskans about  methamphetamine abuse  and the                                                                    
     presence of meth labs in their communities.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  noted that AS 44.29.020  sets forth the                                                               
duties of  DHSS and "doesn't  seem to have  anything specifically                                                               
that covers this."  She noted  that HB 141 had already been heard                                                               
by the House Judiciary Standing  Committee, and he suggested that                                                               
an  amendment be  offered to  that bill  which would  incorporate                                                               
"the substance  of lines  20-26 on  page 2  that would  assign to                                                               
[DHSS] the ability to carry out just  what you have on here."  He                                                               
added, "I think  that would fit under the title  of the bill, and                                                               
then you  would have the authorization  you need as well  as this                                                               
8:18:24 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LYNN asked  if the  resolution would  be sent  to                                                               
anyone other than DHSS.                                                                                                         
8:20:04 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  explained that  the resolution  will be                                                               
filed  by the  governor and  then the  sponsor can  distribute it                                                               
wherever he wishes.   He explained, "We don't  have to distribute                                                               
it  specifically.   That  kind of  thing usually  is  in a  joint                                                               
resolution where it goes to  members of Congress or the secretary                                                               
of state or something like that.   But this is something that you                                                               
can just distribute wherever you wish."                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN stated his support for the resolution.                                                                      
8:21:10 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN moved  to report HCR 4 out  of committee with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  the  accompanying fiscal  notes.                                                               
There being  no objections, HCR 4  was reported out of  the House                                                               
State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                                               

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