Legislature(2007 - 2008)BELTZ 211


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Moved SB 150 Out of Committee
Heard & Held
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
SENATE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES STANDING COMMITTEE                                                               
                         April 18, 2007                                                                                         
                           2:07 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Bettye Davis, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Joe Thomas, Vice Chair                                                                                                  
Senator John Cowdery                                                                                                            
Senator Kim Elton                                                                                                               
Senator Fred Dyson                                                                                                              
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
OTHER LEGISLATORS PRESENT                                                                                                     
Representative Andrea Doll                                                                                                      
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 150                                                                                                             
"An Act relating to an aggravating factor at sentencing for                                                                     
crimes committed at certain shelters and facilities."                                                                           
     MOVED SB 150 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                              
SENATE BILL NO. 8                                                                                                               
"An Act  relating to  a mental health  patient's right  to choose                                                               
the  gender of  hospital  staff providing  intimate  care to  the                                                               
mental  health patient  and to  the duties  of hospital  staff in                                                               
caring for patients receiving mental health treatment."                                                                         
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: SB 150                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: CRIMES AT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SHELTERS                                                                               
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) DAVIS                                                                                                    
03/30/07       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/30/07       (S)       HES, JUD                                                                                               
04/18/07       (S)       HES AT 2:00 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
BILL: SB   8                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: MENTAL HEALTH PATIENT RIGHTS:STAFF GENDER                                                                          
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) DAVIS                                                                                                    
01/16/07       (S)       PREFILE RELEASED 1/5/07                                                                                
01/16/07       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
01/16/07       (S)       HES, JUD, FIN                                                                                          
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
Donne Fleagle, intern to Chair Davis                                                                                            
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT: Presented SB 150                                                                                          
Jerry Luckhaupt, legislative counsel                                                                                            
Legislative Legal and Research Services Division                                                                                
Legislative Affairs Agency                                                                                                      
Juneau, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 150                                                                                       
Chris Ashenbrenner, Interim Program Administrator                                                                               
Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault                                                                                 
Juneau, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT: In favor of SB 150                                                                                        
Faith Meyers, representing herself                                                                                              
Anchorage, AK                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: In favor of SB 150                                                                                        
Dorrance Collins, representing himself                                                                                          
Anchorage, AK                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: In favor of SB 150                                                                                        
Sarah Lyn Tabachnik, executive director                                                                                         
Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies                                                                                      
Juneau, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT: In favor of SB 150                                                                                        
Holly Johanknecht, staff attorney                                                                                               
Disability Law Center of Alaska                                                                                                 
Anchorage, AK                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: In favor of SB 150                                                                                        
Angela Solerno, advocacy coordinator                                                                                            
Alaska Mental Health Board                                                                                                      
Juneau, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT: In favor of SB 150                                                                                        
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
CHAIR  BETTYE  DAVIS  called the  Senate  Health,  Education  and                                                             
Social Services  Standing Committee  meeting to order  at 2:07:17                                                             
PM. Present  at the call  to order were Senators  Cowdery, Elton,                                                             
Dyson, Thomas, and Chair Davis.                                                                                                 
          SB 150-CRIMES AT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SHELTERS                                                                       
CHAIR BETTYE DAVIS announced SB 150 to be up for consideration.                                                                 
DONNE FLEAGLE,  intern to  Chair Davis, sponsor  of SB  150, said                                                               
that the bill was a response  to an instance of domestic violence                                                               
at  a  Juneau shelter.  It  will  not  solve  the social  ill  of                                                               
domestic abuse but will bring attention  to it. Alaska has one of                                                               
the  highest rates  of  domestic  abuse in  the  nation, and  the                                                               
legislation  will  give  the  courts the  ability  to  hand  down                                                               
additional  jail  time  for  those who  commit  felonies  on  the                                                               
premises of  a shelter or  facility providing aid to  domestic or                                                               
sexual assault  victims. The language  of the bill has  been left                                                               
intentionally broad  to allow for  different courts  to determine                                                               
their own  definitions of  facilities and  services; the  bill is                                                               
not tied to specific facilities or programs.                                                                                    
2:10:51 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DYSON said  that Juneau police have  talked about wanting                                                               
a safe  haven to place  underage prostitutes, like a  shelter; he                                                               
asked if they would be protected under SB 150.                                                                                  
2:12:36 PM                                                                                                                    
JERRY LUCKHAUPT,  legislative counsel  for Legislative  Legal and                                                               
Research  Services Division,  asked Senator  Dyson to  repeat his                                                               
SENATOR  DYSON said  that police  would like  to see  13 beds  in                                                               
shelters available  for lodging  underage prostitutes,  and asked                                                               
if they would be covered under the bill.                                                                                        
JERRY LUCKHAUPT  replied that  the girls  would be  covered under                                                               
the bill.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR  COWDERY asked  if Anchorage  is the  city with  the most                                                               
assault  incidences,  and asked  what  security  measures are  in                                                               
place as shelters.                                                                                                              
2:14:06 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. LUCKHAUPT said  that shelters are secured  with locked doors,                                                               
but in many areas of Alaska  they're not necessarily safer than a                                                               
house.  He said  that the  bill was  written to  cover large  and                                                               
small shelters.                                                                                                                 
2:15:21 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS asked  if there's a requirement  for a restraining                                                               
order under the bill.                                                                                                           
MR. LUCKHAUPT replied  that the bill applies  to anyone convicted                                                               
of a  felony offense,  which qualifies  as an  aggravating factor                                                               
allowing the maximum offense penalty.                                                                                           
CHAIR DAVIS  pointed out that SB  150 is the companion  bill to a                                                               
house bill sponsored by Representative Andrea Doll.                                                                             
2:17:03 PM                                                                                                                    
LINDA STANFORD,  program coordinator  for Arctic Women  In Crisis                                                               
(AWIC) in  Barrow, said that  she supports the bill;  people need                                                               
to  be  held  accountable  for not  respecting  safe  houses  and                                                               
shelters. Security should  to be a primary goal;  people who seek                                                               
shelter are  often very scared,  and shelters provide  safety for                                                               
them. She related  a story about past troubles  with her shelter,                                                               
and how they had a  negative impact on the shelter's inhabitants.                                                               
She explained the safety features  of her building, and said that                                                               
off-site safe-house volunteers are sometimes terrorized.                                                                        
2:22:40 PM                                                                                                                    
DON  SHIRCEL,  Director  of Client  Development  for  the  Tanana                                                               
Chiefs Conference, said that rural  women and children don't have                                                               
enough access  to domestic violence  aid; volunteers  have little                                                               
or no backup in case of an attack.  SB 150 is a step in the right                                                               
direction to protecting safe homes and shelters.                                                                                
2:24:32 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVIS said  that there has been no opposition  to the bill,                                                               
and it could possibly be moved out of committee that day.                                                                       
2:25:11 PM                                                                                                                    
CHRIS  ASHENBRENNER,   Interim  Program  Administrator   for  the                                                               
Council on  Domestic Violence and  Sexual Assault, said  that she                                                               
was working  at a Juneau  shelter when an incident  happened, and                                                               
described  the levels  of security  at that  shelter and  how the                                                               
incident was  traumatizing to everyone  involved. There  wasn't a                                                               
sufficient punishment  for the perpetrator; maybe  such incidents                                                               
wouldn't happen if people were aware of the penalty.                                                                            
2:27:16 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  COWDERY said  that  someone had  suggested  TASERs as  a                                                               
security measure for  shelters, and commented that  that could be                                                               
a viable option for discouraging incidents.                                                                                     
2:28:34 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. ASCHENBRENNER  said that she  will continue to look  for ways                                                               
to improve security.                                                                                                            
SARAH LYN TABACHNIK, Executive Director  of Aiding Women in Abuse                                                               
and Rape Emergencies (AWARE) Juneau,  said that women at shelters                                                               
expect a  certain level of  safety; there's a need  for increased                                                               
security. She talked about a  previous incident in Juneau and how                                                               
frightening it was for all at the shelter in question.                                                                          
2:30:20 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVIS asked Ms. Fleagle for closing remarks.                                                                              
MS. FLEAGLE  said that  the Department  of Justice  doesn't track                                                               
aggravated assault  crimes committed  in shelters, nor  any other                                                               
CHAIR DAVIS remarked that it  was Ms. Fleagle's first bill before                                                               
committee, and congratulated her.                                                                                               
2:31:48 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COWDERY made a motion to  move SB 150 from committee with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There                                                               
being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                                         
        SB   8-MENTAL HEALTH PATIENT RIGHTS:STAFF GENDER                                                                    
2:32:56 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR BETTY DAVIS announced SB 8 to be up for consideration.                                                                    
TOM OBERMEYER,  aide to Chair  Davis, sponsor of SB  8, explained                                                               
that  the bill  will  give mental  health  hospital patients  the                                                               
right  to  request  a  nurse  of a  specific  gender.  Many  such                                                               
patients   have  had   traumatic   experiences   that  would   be                                                               
exacerbated by treatment  by a nurse of a  specific gender. While                                                               
the  bill  recognizes  that such  requests  can  not  necessarily                                                               
always be  fulfilled, the  request will go  in a  patient's file;                                                               
this will prevent the information  from being ignored or lost and                                                               
will provide a record in case of resulting trauma.                                                                              
He added  that there  is a  basic right of  privacy cited  in the                                                               
Alaska constitution,  and the  bill is in  line with  this right.                                                               
There is no fiscal ramification to the bill.                                                                                    
2:36:59 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  COWDERY asked  for detail  on the  current practices  in                                                               
such facilities.                                                                                                                
MR.  OBERMEYER replied  that the  main issue  of the  bill is  to                                                               
attempt  to have  staff of  both  genders available  in case  the                                                               
patient has been  victimized by a person of a  certain gender and                                                               
does not wish to be treated  by someone of that gender. Currently                                                               
such  requests are  sometimes ignored;  the bill  provides for  a                                                               
record of  the patient's request,  so if trauma is  determined to                                                               
have happened later, the matter can be fully investigated.                                                                      
2:39:34 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  COWDERY  remarked  that  the  fiscal  note  impacts  the                                                               
Department of  Corrections, and  asked if  the bill  would affect                                                               
any other departments.                                                                                                          
MR. OBERMEYER  replied that all  fiscal notes are zero,  and said                                                               
that the bill would be easily implemented with temporary staff.                                                                 
CHAIR DAVIS said  that some health institutions  use staff across                                                               
different units,  and that could serve  as an example for  how to                                                               
implement this bill.                                                                                                            
2:41:45 PM                                                                                                                    
FAITH MEYERS,  representing herself,  said that she  supports the                                                               
bill and  has had experience as  a patient in mental  health care                                                               
facilities.  Unnecessary  trauma  is  a reality  in  health  care                                                               
facilities,  and   gender  choice  needs  to   be  provided.  The                                                               
percentage  of  women in  psychiatric  facilities  with a  sexual                                                               
abuse  past is  very  high; people  can  feel re-victimized  when                                                               
treated intimately by a person  of a certain gender. Change needs                                                               
to  be made  in state  statutes. She  then cited  several letters                                                               
from  people   and  institutions  supporting  gender   choice  in                                                               
intimate psychiatric care.                                                                                                      
2:46:38 PM                                                                                                                    
DORRANCE  COLLINS, representing  himself, said  that he  supports                                                               
the bill;  not giving a  gender choice in psychiatric  care staff                                                               
can be  traumatizing to  the patient.  Many other  states require                                                               
such  a  choice  in  their hospitals  and  psychiatric  treatment                                                               
facilities.  He  cited a  recent  court  decision that  concerned                                                               
patient  abuse,  and  said  that  gender choice  is  a  right  of                                                               
patients.  Many  psychiatric  patients   have  been  sexually  or                                                               
physically  abused, and  being denied  gender choice  in intimate                                                               
care staff creates trauma all  over again. No loopholes should be                                                               
added to the bill.                                                                                                              
2:49:42 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVIS  remarked that a  representative from  legal services                                                               
was available for questions on the bill.                                                                                        
HOLLY JOHANKNECHT, staff attorney  with the Disability Law Center                                                               
of  Alaska,  said that  the  Alaska  constitution recognizes  the                                                               
rights  of  mental health  patients  and  the bill  would  codify                                                               
existing  rights;  other  states  have  similar  legislation  for                                                               
protecting  patient   rights.  A  large  number   of  psychiatric                                                               
patients have  a history  of physical or  sexual abuse,  and they                                                               
need  to be  offered  a choice  of nurse  gender  to prevent  re-                                                               
traumatization. The  rights offered by  SB 8 are  already offered                                                               
to prisoners.                                                                                                                   
2:52:50 PM                                                                                                                    
ANGELA  SOLERNO,  advocacy  coordinator  for  the  Alaska  Mental                                                               
Health Board, said  that there was a letter from  the board chair                                                               
before  the  committee  and  that   she  agreed  with  the  prior                                                               
testimony;  the bill  will afford  a psychiatric  patient respect                                                               
and dignity  at a time  of stress  and change. It's  a reasonable                                                               
expectation for  a hospital and  allows for the  impossibility of                                                               
fulfilling the request.                                                                                                         
CHAIR DAVIS thanked the presenters  and said that no action could                                                               
be  taken on  the bill  at that  time because  of the  lack of  a                                                               
quorum; the bill would be scheduled for another hearing shortly.                                                                
There being no further business to come before the committee,                                                                   
she adjourned the meeting at 2:55:52 PM.                                                                                      

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