Legislature(2011 - 2012)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

01/23/2012 08:00 AM EDUCATION

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08:02:08 AM Start
08:03:21 AM SB137
09:01:23 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SB 137 Out of Committee
         SB 137-SUICIDE AWARENESS & PREVENTION TRAINING                                                                     
8:03:21 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER announced the consideration of SB 137.                                                                           
8:04:04 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  DAVIS,  SB 137  sponsor,  explained  that SB  137  would                                                               
assist school  personnel to  better understand  suicide awareness                                                               
and prevention.                                                                                                                 
8:05:28 AM                                                                                                                    
THOMAS OBERMEYER, staff  to Senator Davis, said SB 137  is an act                                                               
requiring suicide  awareness and prevention training  for certain                                                               
school personnel. He  stated that SB 137, 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 third leading  cause of death for ages 10-                                                               
24 and the  number one cause of death for  Alaskans under the age                                                               
of 50 years.                                                                                                                    
Awareness  and education  are keys  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  of at-risk youth                                                               
and are prepared to intervene when they identify a problem.                                                                     
MR. OBERMEYER said 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                                                               
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                                                               
The  Alaska Bureau  of Vital  Statistics 2000-2009,  reported the                                                               
following  suicide  facts  and   statistics:  21.8  suicides  per                                                               
100,000 Alaskans  versus 11.5  suicides per  1000,000 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  the same  age                                                               
group; 1369 suicides  in 176 Alaska communities  between 2000 and                                                               
2009, 11  per month,  2.6 per week;  78-percent of  suicides were                                                               
committed by men  and 22-percent by women who made  twice as many                                                               
but had many more failed  attempts; 90-percent 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-percent of  Alaska  high  school students  reported                                                               
they  seriously considered  suicide; 8.7  percent of  Alaska High                                                               
School  Students actually  attempted suicide  one or  more times;                                                               
2.7  percent of  Alaska  High School  Students attempted  suicide                                                               
resulting in injury,  poisoning, or overdose treated  by a doctor                                                               
or nurse.                                                                                                                       
MR. OBERMEYER  said "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.                                                                 
8:09:26 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. OBERMEYER  said 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  free  suicide   awareness  and  prevention  training                                                               
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 a  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  percent of                                                               
the costs  of Alaska suicide  hospitalizations were  paid through                                                               
public funding sources and 15  percent 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.                                                                                                                  
8:10:38 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. OBERMEYER referencing a letter  from Kate Burkhart, Executive                                                               
Director, Statewide Suicide Prevention Council (SSPC), quoted:                                                                  
     "while the council endorsed the state suicidal                                                                             
     prevention strategy  mandating training for  all school                                                                    
     district  personnel, children  and youth  interact with                                                                    
     more  than  just  their teachers  at  school;  coaches,                                                                    
     cafeteria  staff,  maintenance  staff,  librarians  and                                                                    
     others,  all have  a chance  to support  our youth  and                                                                    
     save a life."                                                                                                              
MR.  OBERMEYER  said  SB  137 does  not  mandate  one  particular                                                               
program  or  set  of  materials and  that  The  Jason  Foundation                                                               
recommends multiple  sources to assist in  suicide prevention. He                                                               
said  $60,000 would  be  required to  initiate  the program,  two                                                               
thirds of the cost attributed to vendors' fees.                                                                                 
8:12:32 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  DAVIS said  she received  input from  the Department  of                                                               
Education  and  Early  Development   along  with  various  school                                                               
8:14:15 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS asked what the at-risk suicide signs are.                                                                       
CO-CHAIR MEYER  answered that forthcoming public  testimony would                                                               
answer his question.                                                                                                            
8:14:57 AM                                                                                                                    
KATE  BURKHART, Executive  Director, SSPC,  said suicide  warning                                                               
signs were noted  on page 37 in the SB  137 Sponsor's Packet. She                                                               
explained that in addition to  The Jason Foundation, the Division                                                               
of  Behavioral  Health  offers   the  Alaska  Gatekeeper  Suicide                                                               
Prevention  Training Program  at no  cost and  the Alaska  Native                                                               
Tribal Health Consortium offers  the Intervention Skills Training                                                               
Program for a fee.                                                                                                              
8:18:16 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  BURKHART said  Alaska's  Trust  Training Cooperative  (TTC),                                                               
offers the  Mental Health  First Aid  program. She  said Governor                                                               
Parnell  had  prioritized  suicide  prevention  in  his  proposed                                                               
budget,  which includes  a pilot-training  program  for all  high                                                               
school educators  and staff, and  the SSPC's priority is  to have                                                               
mandated suicide prevention training for school personnel.                                                                      
8:20:15 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS  said suicide is  an enormous problem  in Alaska.                                                               
He  asked  if  she  had  participated  in  the  suicide  training                                                               
programs that teachers will be required to take.                                                                                
MS.  BURKHART  answered  no, only  generalized  suicide  training                                                               
8:21:43 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS  asked  about  the time  required  for  mandated                                                               
8:21:56 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  BURKHART  answered  two  hours.  She  said  other  voluntary                                                               
program training periods vary; the  DHSS Gatekeeper Program takes                                                               
two days,  the TCC Mental  Health First  Aid Program takes  up to                                                               
three days.                                                                                                                     
8:23:26 AM                                                                                                                    
KATYA WASSILLIE,  staff to Senator Davis,  explained the positive                                                               
impact  SB 137  would  have  on rural  Alaska.  She detailed  her                                                               
background,  having attended  school  in  nine different  Alaskan                                                               
villages  and  stated that  suicide  directly  affected her  life                                                               
through family and friends. She  said village-based teachers tend                                                               
to  interact  with  students  more   frequently  outside  of  the                                                               
classroom and believed SB 137  would assist them to better access                                                               
struggling students'  internal issues  and provide  the opportune                                                               
assistance to avoid suicide.                                                                                                    
8:25:39 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS asked if some suicides  occurred in waves or in a                                                               
copy-cat manner.                                                                                                                
8:25:58 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. WASSILLIE  referred to a  suicide-pact in  Shaktoolik, Alaska                                                               
where friends  agreed to commit suicide  together; one individual                                                               
committed  suicide  and  others   attempted.  She  surmised  that                                                               
attention  given   from  attempted   suicide  may   affect  other                                                               
individuals in a peer group setting.                                                                                            
SENATOR  STEVENS  commented  that  early  suicide  detection  and                                                               
response could help alleviate further suicide incidents.                                                                        
MS. WASSILLIE agreed.                                                                                                           
8:27:25 AM                                                                                                                    
CLARK  FLATT, President,  The Jason  Foundation,  said The  Jason                                                               
Flatt Act was initiated to  be an educational force for students,                                                               
teachers,  educators, youth  workers,  and  communities. He  said                                                               
teachers  are better  equipped to  see behavioral  changes before                                                               
parents  do and  declared that  the  most important  act a  state                                                               
could do is  train its educators and provide  resources to detect                                                               
early  warning  signs  for youth  suicide  prevention.  He  noted                                                               
within the  past five years,  six states enacted the  Jason Flatt                                                               
Act,  one of  them, Tennessee,  had  shown a  reduction in  youth                                                               
suicide rates by 31 percent in 2009 and 17 percent in 2010.                                                                     
He  said The  Jason  Foundation and  The  American Foundation  of                                                               
Suicide Prevention  (AFSP) would provide, free  of charge, access                                                               
to their  on-line library  and DVD  Facilitator Packets;  the DVD                                                               
programs are two hours in  length and well suited for instructing                                                               
individuals located  in Alaska's  remote regions.  He emphasized,                                                               
beyond The Jason  Foundation and the AFSP, the  use of additional                                                               
suicide awareness resources.                                                                                                    
8:31:49 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. FLATT said  The Jason Foundation had opened an  office in the                                                               
North  Star  Behavioral  Health Center-Anchorage.  He  summarized                                                               
that,  based  upon feedback  from  teachers  in states  that  had                                                               
mandated  suicide  training; SB  137  would  also save  lives  in                                                               
8:34:40 AM                                                                                                                    
SHARON STRUTZ-NORTON, representing herself,  said she is a Family                                                               
Psychiatric  and   Mental  Health  Nurse   Practioner,  Statewide                                                               
Suicide  Prevention Council  (SSPC)  member, AFSP-Alaska  member,                                                               
and a  family suicide  survivor. She spoke  at the  Alaska School                                                               
Counselor  Association's (ASCA)  Annual Conference  and discussed                                                               
the support given for mandatory  suicide prevention education and                                                               
training. She  referred to properly  trained school  personnel as                                                               
"gatekeepers"  who are  ideally positioned  to recognize  suicide                                                               
behavioral signs and treatment referral.                                                                                        
8:38:35 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS  asked what would  happen if a  teacher overheard                                                               
students talking about suicide.                                                                                                 
8:38:53 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  STRUTZ-NORTON  answered  that  a  teacher  should  recognize                                                               
student  behavioral  changes and  refers  at-risk  students to  a                                                               
counselor  or  get   other  staff  members  to   assist  in  risk                                                               
8:39:16 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS asked what would happen in a rural village.                                                                     
8:39:27 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  STRUTZ-NORTON  answered  that  suicide  awareness  education                                                               
would help school staff members to respond appropriately.                                                                       
SENATOR  STEVENS said  he had  a concern  for suicide  prevention                                                               
support in rural villages without counselors.                                                                                   
8:40:45 AM                                                                                                                    
DEBORAH  BOND, representing  herself, said  she lost  her son  to                                                               
suicide.  He  was a  bullying  victim  and misunderstood  by  the                                                               
school staff. She said educators  with suicide awareness training                                                               
would help save children's lives.                                                                                               
8:42:39 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS commented  on  the  possible connection  between                                                               
bullying and suicide.                                                                                                           
8:43:27 AM                                                                                                                    
JAMES  BIELA, advocate,  AFSP-Alaska,  said his  background as  a                                                               
registered trainer  for the  Applied Suicide  Intervention Skills                                                               
Training (ASIST), helped prevent a  suicide in 2010. He noted the                                                               
importance  for training  an entire  school's staff  via multiple                                                               
suicide awareness programs.                                                                                                     
8:45:44 AM                                                                                                                    
ANN  SCHAACK,  advocate,  North Star  Behavioral  Health  Center-                                                               
Anchorage and  The Jason  Foundation-Alaska, said  Alaska's youth                                                               
suicide rates  are alarmingly high and  school personnel equipped                                                               
with  suicide prevention  tools and  resources help  identify at-                                                               
risk youth and connect them with support.                                                                                       
8:47:02 AM                                                                                                                    
JOHN  ALCANTRA,   Director  of  Government   Relations,  National                                                               
Education  Association-Alaska (NEA-Alaska),  said NEA-Alaska  met                                                               
with Senator  Davis and recommended mandatory  suicide prevention                                                               
training to  include all school  personnel. He said  the required                                                               
two-hour training  could inspire school personnel  to voluntarily                                                               
take additional courses.  He recommended that SB  137 not include                                                               
a fiscal note,  but said he recognized a cost  impact from vendor                                                               
fees and staff training time,  and those expenses could be offset                                                               
by using non-fee based resources.                                                                                               
8:51:00 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER  said fiscal  notes  would  be addressed  by  the                                                               
Senate Finance Committee.                                                                                                       
8:52:19 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS  said  he was  concerned  about  implementing  a                                                               
program in smaller schools where  professional support was not in                                                               
the area.                                                                                                                       
8:52:54 AM                                                                                                                    
CYNTHIA   CURRAN,  Director,   Teaching  and   Learning  Support,                                                               
Department of  Education and Early  Development, answered  that a                                                               
health education  team works with  school district  personnel and                                                               
provides resource support.                                                                                                      
SENATOR  STEVENS  asked  about   response  to  ambiguous  suicide                                                               
warning signs.                                                                                                                  
8:54:26 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.   CURRAN  answered   that  knowing   the  student,   behavior                                                               
differences and  risk factors would help  teachers understand and                                                               
recognize warning signs.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  STEVENS said  parents  should be  aware  of the  warning                                                               
signs as well.                                                                                                                  
8:55:00 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS asked about the fiscal note.                                                                                      
8:55:17 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. CURRAN  explained that the  fiscal note related  primarily to                                                               
course  development costs.  She  said rather  than an  in-service                                                               
format, an  "E-Learning Module" would  be used to  allow teachers                                                               
to train at their convenience  and permit the department to track                                                               
their progress.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR  DAVIS  asked that  all  suicide  awareness resources  be                                                               
compiled to address costs with the Senate Finance Committee.                                                                    
8:57:27 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. CURRAN answered that the department would comply.                                                                           
SENATOR  DAVIS said  she would  provide the  department with  her                                                               
suicide awareness  resource list.  She admonished  the department                                                               
for its neutrality and not taking a supportive stance.                                                                          
LES  MORSE,  Deputy  Commissioner, Department  of  Education  and                                                               
Early Development,  said the department  recognizes suicide  as a                                                               
problem and wanted to avoid  premature comments on legislation be                                                               
avoided.  He said  possible solutions  should be  deliberated and                                                               
deployed by the committee.                                                                                                      
8:59:18 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MEYER  asked Senator Davis  to work with  the department                                                               
to scrutinize the fiscal note.                                                                                                  
9:00:05 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  THOMAS  moved to  report  SB  137 from  committee  with                                                               
individual recommendations and attached fiscal note.                                                                            
9:00:18 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MEYER announced  that without  objection, SB  137 moved                                                               
from the Senate Education Standing Committee.                                                                                   

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Agenda 1-23-12.pdf SEDC 1/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
Alaska State Suicide Prevention Plan.pdf SEDC 1/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
Back-up Statistics.pdf SEDC 1/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
SB0137A.PDF SEDC 1/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB137 Sponsor Statement.pdf SEDC 1/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
SB 137
SSPC Letter 1-20-12.pdf SEDC 1/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
SB137-EED-TLS-1-17-12.pdf SEDC 1/23/2012 8:00:00 AM
SB 137