Legislature(2017 - 2018)BARNES 124

04/04/2017 08:00 AM House COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS

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08:06:58 AM Start
08:08:04 AM HB138
08:34:35 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved HB 138 Out of Committee
-- Testimony <Invited/Public> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
    HOUSE COMMUNITY AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                   
                         April 4, 2017                                                                                          
                           8:06 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Zach Fansler, Co-Chair                                                                                           
Representative Harriet Drummond                                                                                                 
Representative Dean Westlake                                                                                                    
Representative Dan Saddler                                                                                                      
Representative David Talerico                                                                                                   
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Representative Justin Parish, Co-Chair                                                                                          
Representative George Rauscher                                                                                                  
Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (alternate)                                                                              
Representative DeLena Johnson (alternate)                                                                                       
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 138                                                                                                              
"An Act establishing the month of March as Sobriety Awareness                                                                   
     - MOVED HB 138 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                            
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: HB 138                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: MARCH: SOBRIETY AWARENESS MONTH                                                                                    
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) WESTLAKE                                                                                          
02/22/17       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/22/17       (H)       HSS, CRA                                                                                               
03/07/17       (H)       HSS AT 3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                             
03/07/17       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/07/17       (H)       MINUTE(HSS)                                                                                            
03/23/17       (H)       HSS AT 3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                             
03/23/17       (H)       Moved HB 138 Out of Committee                                                                          
03/23/17       (H)       MINUTE(HSS)                                                                                            
03/24/17       (H)       HSS RPT 6DP 1NR                                                                                        
03/24/17       (H)       DP: JOHNSTON, TARR, EDGMON, SULLIVAN-                                                                  
                         LEONARD, KITO, SPOHNHOLZ                                                                               
03/24/17       (H)       NR: EASTMAN                                                                                            
04/04/17       (H)       CRA AT 8:00 AM BARNES 124                                                                              
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
FORREST WOLFE, Staff                                                                                                            
Representative Dean Westlake                                                                                                    
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
POSITION   STATEMENT:      Presented   HB  138   on   behalf   of                                                             
Representative Westlake, prime sponsor.                                                                                         
GREGORY NOTHSTINE, President                                                                                                    
Sobermiut Reviving our Spirit                                                                                                   
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 138.                                                                          
STACY B. TONER, Deputy Director                                                                                                 
Division of Behavioral Health                                                                                                   
Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS)                                                                                 
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions  during the hearing on HB
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
8:06:58 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  ZACH FANSLER  called the  House Community  and Regional                                                             
Affairs  Standing  Committee  meeting   to  order  at  8:06  a.m.                                                               
Representatives  Westlake,   Talerico,  Drummond,   Saddler,  and                                                               
Fansler were present at the call to order.                                                                                      
             HB 138-MARCH: SOBRIETY AWARENESS MONTH                                                                         
8:08:04 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR FANSLER announced that the  only order of business would                                                               
be HOUSE  BILL NO. 138, "An  Act establishing the month  of March                                                               
as Sobriety Awareness Month."                                                                                                   
8:08:38 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WESTLAKE, as  prime sponsor,  introduced HB  138.                                                               
He  paraphrased  the sponsor  statement,  which  read as  follows                                                               
[original punctuation provided]:                                                                                                
        House Bill 138 seeks to have the State of Alaska                                                                        
        recognize March as Sobriety Awareness Month. The                                                                        
     purpose  of   Sobriety  Awareness  Month  is   to  call                                                                    
     attention   to   Alaska's   aggregate   population   of                                                                    
     citizens,  who practice  a  positive  and healthy  non-                                                                    
     consumer   lifestyle   of    any   mood/mind   altering                                                                    
     substances. Sobriety Awareness  Month is an opportunity                                                                    
     for  schools, community  groups, and  other public  and                                                                    
     private   agencies   and  individuals   to   recognize,                                                                    
     appreciate,   and  celebrate   the  existence   of  all                                                                    
     Alaska's  citizenry,  who  by virtue  of  their  freely                                                                    
       chosen lifestyle, serve as Living-Examples-To-The-                                                                       
     Truth  (LETTT)  that  life can  be  lived  and  enjoyed                                                                    
     without   having   to    consume   mood/mind   altering                                                                    
     Individuals  that lead  a sober  life are  an asset  to                                                                    
     Alaska in  that they can  help reduce the  incidence of                                                                    
     alcohol  or drug  related social  ills  such as  crime,                                                                    
     domestic violence, and child abuse & neglect.                                                                              
     Please join me in  support of recognizing this valuable                                                                    
     group of Alaskans and their lifestyle.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WESTLAKE  added  that  the  proposed  legislation                                                               
would  designate  March  of  each  year  as  "Sobriety  Awareness                                                               
8:09:56 AM                                                                                                                    
FORREST WOLFE, Staff, Representative  Dean Westlake, presented HB
138  on behalf  of Representative  Westlake, prime  sponsor.   He                                                               
directed  attention to  a handout  in the  committee bill  packet                                                               
providing  the  language  of  AS 47.37.010,  also  known  as  the                                                               
Uniform  Alcoholism and  Intoxication Act.   He  cited the  first                                                               
sentence  following  the declaration  of  policy,  which read  as                                                               
     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                                                                    
MR.  WOLFE stated  the sponsor's  belief is  that by  permanently                                                               
designating  March as  "Sobriety  Awareness Month",  HB 138  will                                                               
help the State of Alaska "meet  this declaration and policy."  He                                                               
noted  that  the  individual  who   brought  the  idea  for  this                                                               
legislation to  the attention of Representative  Westlake and his                                                               
staff was available  today to testify.  He  further observed that                                                               
someone from the Department of  Health and Social Services (DHSS)                                                               
was available, as well.                                                                                                         
8:11:19 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked for the definition of "sobriety".                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE WESTLAKE  answered that it  means a life  "free of                                                               
any substances out  there."  He said he spoke  with people in the                                                               
Native village  of Eyak, in  Cordova, Alaska, in  November [2016]                                                               
when the community spoke about  sobriety and shared how long each                                                               
individual  had  been sober.    He  indicated that  the  proposed                                                               
legislation  recognizes the  accomplishments  of  those who  have                                                               
maintained sobriety  and are role  models who know that  "you can                                                               
pick yourself  up."  He  said the substances include  alcohol and                                                               
drugs, and sobriety means "getting  back integrated without being                                                               
dependent ... on anything else other than yourself."                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  asked what the  effect would be  of state                                                               
sobriety awareness month.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  WESTLAKE  said  he   wants  to  see  a  statewide                                                               
celebration and  focus on sobriety,  because currently  the issue                                                               
is in a patchwork of awareness.   He proposed that HB 138 is more                                                               
than  a feel-good  bill; it  is a  do-good bill.   It  would give                                                               
people "a conduit  to get out there and celebrate."   It would be                                                               
recognition of those who have  worked toward sobriety, even those                                                               
who have fallen and had to find sobriety again.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  asked  what changes  would  be  effected                                                               
under HB 138.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE WESTLAKE answered that he  has no idea, because it                                                               
would be  "up to the  people on  how they make  that difference."                                                               
He added,  "I'm hoping  ... it's something  I never  even dreamed                                                               
8:14:18 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR FANSLER opened public testimony on HB 138.                                                                             
8:14:37 AM                                                                                                                    
GREGORY  NOTHSTINE,  President,  Sobermiut Reviving  our  Spirit,                                                               
testified that he  has a history with sobriety  awareness, as the                                                               
legislation was introduced  in the House in 1995.   He said there                                                               
are  citizens in  the state  who have  never consumed  any "mind-                                                               
altering" beverages and  children who have not  yet been affected                                                               
by [alcohol],  cigarettes, or mind-altering substances.   He said                                                               
the  problem has  been redefined  each  year.   He mentioned  the                                                               
"People  of Peril"  series in  the Anchorage  Daily News  and the                                                             
Alaska Federation  of Natives (AFN)  Blue Ribbon Council,  and he                                                               
said the  council was asked  what the  next step should  be since                                                               
"all these  big federally funded  programs" were focusing  on the                                                               
problem  of  drug  and  alcohol  abuse  and  helping  the  public                                                               
understand  the  devastating effects  of  substance  abuse.   Mr.                                                               
Gregory said the late General  Schaeffer (ph), at that time asked                                                               
what could be done differently, since  the focus on the issue was                                                               
not making it go  away.  One idea was to focus  on all the people                                                               
who [are sober] and how  their influence helps the communities in                                                               
which they live.   He said these living examples  are missed when                                                               
the focus is  only placed on the  problem.  He said  he thinks HB
138 will  help put the focus  on those who are  choosing sobriety                                                               
as a  way of  life they  enjoy and doing  so of  free will.   Mr.                                                               
Nothstine stated that there is  not social permission for someone                                                               
to  say,  "This is  the  way  of life  I  choose  to live."    He                                                               
emphasized  the need  to  show  the merits  of  living a  healthy                                                               
8:19:44 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  noted that  Mr. Nothstine  is part  of an                                                               
organization  that promotes  sobriety as  a way  of life,  and he                                                               
asked him to describe how HB 138 would help him in his efforts.                                                                 
MR.  NOTHSTINE stated  his belief  that the  proposed legislation                                                               
would  support any  such  organization  to help  the  state.   He                                                               
explained that  the state  already has  a declaration  of policy,                                                               
but he  questioned how many  organizations are  currently helping                                                               
the state  to reinforce it.   The proposed legislation  would put                                                               
those organizations in a position to do so.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked  the reason why March  should be the                                                               
month chosen.                                                                                                                   
MR.  NOTHSTINE  surmised  that  it  is a  kind  of  follow-up  of                                                               
numerous past  legislation that has been  introduced between 1996                                                               
and 2005.   He  mentioned that  the AFN gave  names [to  dogs who                                                               
run] the  Iditarod, as a  way to  honor people, and  he indicated                                                               
that  was  in  March.    He said  there  is  already  an  alcohol                                                               
awareness month and  "we already know enough  about alcohol," yet                                                               
there is no focus on people who  are sober by choice, and it's an                                                               
appropriate time to utilize March as "Sobriety Awareness Month".                                                                
8:22:40 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WESTLAKE  said he did  not have the  statistics to                                                               
answer the  question.  Notwithstanding  that, he noted  that from                                                               
January  to  April, the  Alaska  Psychiatric  Institute (API)  is                                                               
booked and  has to turn  people away.   He said the  suicides are                                                               
terrible.   He said  spring signifies a  new beginning,  so March                                                               
seemed like an appropriate time.                                                                                                
8:24:22 AM                                                                                                                    
STACY B.  TONER, Deputy Director, Division  of Behavioral Health,                                                               
Department  of Health  and Social  Services (DHSS),  responded to                                                               
Representative  Saddler's   question  about  the   advantages  of                                                               
choosing March  as the month.   She  said she could  envision the                                                               
division  formulating sobriety  celebrations with  the division's                                                               
grantees and providers  in the community.  She said,  "We do this                                                               
for recovery  month in September  where we're helping  to support                                                               
community awareness  campaigns and  celebrations."  She  said the                                                               
focus would  be both on  the treatment side  as well as  on those                                                               
communities with  coalitions focused on prevention.   In response                                                               
to a  follow-up question,  she said recovery  month is  a federal                                                               
initiative, and recovery is the option  for those who have had an                                                               
issue with  drugs or  alcohol and  have worked  to heal  from it.                                                               
Conversely, sobriety,  although it can  mean a life  in recovery,                                                               
is also  the choice to  be drug, alcohol, or  substance-free, and                                                               
it can be a  choice made by a person before  he/she has an issue.                                                               
She  concluded,  "It might  be  splitting  hairs, but  they're  a                                                               
little different."                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  asked what  percentage of  the division's                                                               
work addresses those who do abuse alcohol or drugs.                                                                             
MS.  TONER  estimated  more  than  65  percent.    She  said  API                                                               
constitutes a  large portion  of the division's  work.   She said                                                               
that might  be a  low number,  because there  are so  many people                                                               
with "co-occurring issues."                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER asked  for a  rough estimate  of how  the                                                               
state's budget  would be  affected if  half the  people currently                                                               
addicted to drugs and/or alcohol were no longer so.                                                                             
MS. TONER answered that the division  has a large amount of money                                                               
going out  of Medicaid to  treat people with substance  abuse and                                                               
mental  health issues.   She  presumed  that the  savings to  the                                                               
state in  having a state full  of sober people would  be $80-$100                                                               
million.  She qualified that her  answer is to a question that is                                                               
"out there on the edge."   She said the opioid epidemic is taking                                                               
many lives, and  "we haven't even begun to ...  touch on how much                                                               
impact that's having."                                                                                                          
8:29:35 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR FANSLER,  after ascertaining that  there was no  one who                                                               
wished to testify, closed public testimony on HB 138.                                                                           
CO-CHAIR FANSLER  said HB 138 had  been heard twice by  the House                                                               
Health and Social Services Standing  Committee, and he stated his                                                               
intention to pass  it out of committee  today following committee                                                               
8:30:41 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  stated that  while  he  sometimes has  a                                                               
cynical view of what the government  can do in people's lives, he                                                               
does  see that  the cost  on and  damage of  people's lives  as a                                                               
result of  drug and alcohol  abuse is significant enough  that it                                                               
would be  worthwhile for  the state  to do  everything it  can to                                                               
"create the social encouragement of  a sober lifestyle."  He said                                                               
peer pressure  is often  the reason people  try alcohol  or drugs                                                               
for the first time,  and he opined that if the  state can have an                                                               
influence in peer pressure that  encourages people to be straight                                                               
and sober, then that would be  beneficial and the state should do                                                               
everything in its power to make that happen.                                                                                    
8:31:37 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR FANSLER stated  that he thinks HB 138  is worthwhile and                                                               
could save the state money by  encouraging people to live a sober                                                               
lifestyle and recognizing those who are.                                                                                        
8:32:06 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND moved  to report HB 138  out of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes.  There being no objection,  HB 138 was reported out of the                                                               
House Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                        
8:32:49 AM                                                                                                                    
The committee took an at-ease from 8:33 a.m. to 8:34 a.m.                                                                       
8:34:35 AM                                                                                                                    
There being no further business before the committee, the House                                                                 
Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee meeting was                                                                   
adjourned at 8:34 a.m.                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB138 Support Document-Alcoholism and Intoxication Treatment Act.pdf HCRA 4/4/2017 8:00:00 AM
HHSS 3/7/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 3/23/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 138
HB138 ver D.PDF HCRA 4/4/2017 8:00:00 AM
HHSS 3/7/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 3/23/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 138
HB138 Sponsor Statement.pdf HCRA 4/4/2017 8:00:00 AM
HHSS 3/7/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 3/23/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 138
HB138 Fiscal Note DHSS-BHA-3.3.17.pdf HCRA 4/4/2017 8:00:00 AM
HHSS 3/7/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 3/23/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 138