Legislature(2011 - 2012)CAPITOL 106

01/25/2011 08:00 AM House STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 21(STA) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
           HB  21-SUICIDE PREVENTION COUNCIL MEMBERS                                                                        
8:08:18 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN announced  that the first order of  business was HOUSE                                                               
BILL NO. 21, "An Act relating  to the membership of the Statewide                                                               
Suicide Prevention Council."                                                                                                    
8:08:20 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   ANNA  FAIRCLOUGH,   Alaska  State   Legislature,                                                               
introduced HB  21 as joint  prime sponsor.   She stated  that she                                                               
and  Representative  Berta  Gardner  are  members  of  the  State                                                               
Suicide Prevention Council.  She  directed attention to a handout                                                               
in  the committee  packet entitled,  "Mending the  Net:   Suicide                                                               
Prevention in  Alaska," the  annual report  for fiscal  year 2010                                                               
(FY 10)  from the council.   As shown on  page 11 of  the report,                                                               
Representative Fairclough stated  that suicide is one  of the top                                                               
ten causes  of death in Alaska.   Page 20, she  said, describes a                                                               
public  health model  emphasizing  community readiness,  planning                                                               
efforts,   and   outcomes,   with  an   emphasis   on   community                                                               
8:09:51 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BERTA GARDNER, Alaska  State Legislature, as joint                                                               
prime sponsor, highlighted the changes  in the proposed committee                                                               
substitute,  (CS)  for  HB   21,  Version  27-LS0154\B,  Bullard,                                                               
1/22/11.  First,  the proposed CS would require  someone to serve                                                               
on   the  council   who  brings   experience   from  a   military                                                               
perspective, either  as someone currently in  service, a retiree,                                                               
or someone who has worked with military personnel.                                                                              
8:11:11 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  moved  to adopt  the  proposed  committee                                                               
substitute  (CS)   for  HB  21,  Version   27-LS0154\B,  Bullard,                                                               
1/22/11, as  a work draft.   There being no objection,  Version B                                                               
was before the committee.                                                                                                       
8:11:30 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  noted that the second  change proposed in                                                               
Version B would change the requirement  of a youth serving on the                                                               
council from being in grade 9, 10,  11, or 12, to being "at least                                                           
16  years  or  age but  not  more  than  20  years of  age"  when                                                           
appointed.   She explained  that with  this change,  somebody who                                                               
has  just  graduated from  high  school,  but is,  perhaps,  just                                                               
becoming  comfortable  in  his/her  ability to  speak  out  as  a                                                               
council member, would be able to serve.                                                                                         
8:12:20 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE FAIRCLOUGH  noted that  Chair Lynn had,  some time                                                               
before the  meeting, expressed concern  that the use of  the term                                                               
"active military  personnel" found  in the original  bill version                                                           
was ambiguous.  She noted that  Version B specifies that the term                                                               
means, for example, that the National Guard would be included.                                                                  
CHAIR LYNN  made the  distinction that  the National  Guard works                                                               
for the state,  except when commandeered by the  President of the                                                               
United States, in  which case National Guard  members are working                                                               
for the federal government.                                                                                                     
8:13:44 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER, in  response  to a  question from  Chair                                                               
Lynn, indicated  that the results  of despair and  depression are                                                               
the same,  irrespective of their  origins.  She said,  "It's hard                                                               
to tease out  exactly which threads lead to  which behaviors, but                                                               
there's no doubt that Alaska has  leading numbers in all of those                                                               
areas:   alcohol  abuse, domestic  violence, sexual  assault, and                                                               
CHAIR LYNN  offered his view  that solving the problem  of sexual                                                               
violence,  alcohol  abuse, and  child  abuse  would result  in  a                                                               
decrease in the suicide rate.                                                                                                   
8:14:44 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE FAIRCLOUGH  directed attention  to page 10  of the                                                               
aforementioned report,  which states  that of  the 33  percent of                                                               
those  whose death  was caused  by  suicide who  were tested  for                                                               
drugs and/or alcohol, 44 percent  tested positive for alcohol and                                                               
48 percent  tested positive  for other drugs.   She  talked about                                                               
the link between a lack of hope and the occurrence of suicide.                                                                  
8:15:54 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  expressed  appreciation  of  the  suicide                                                               
prevention  efforts that  are  being  made.   He  said the  House                                                               
Health and  Social Services Standing  Committee has  been talking                                                               
about vitamin  D therapy  for people living  in areas  that don't                                                               
get much light,  and he said that that therapy  is more effective                                                               
than light  therapy.  He  said he  looks forward to  working with                                                               
the  council in  the  future,  and expressed  his  wish that  the                                                               
council look at the issues more broadly.                                                                                        
8:17:56 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON  said she is pleased at  the addition of                                                               
language  related  to military  personnel.    She indicated  that                                                               
suicides spike [between  the ages of 15-24], and she  said 23 and                                                               
24 are  the ages at  which many of those  who have served  in the                                                               
military come  back home.   She also  expressed surprise  to have                                                               
read on page 9 of the report  that another group with a high rate                                                               
of suicide is that of people 85 and older.                                                                                      
8:19:17 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   FAIRCLOUGH  highlighted   that   in  2009,   140                                                               
individuals [in  Alaska] committed suicide.   She further related                                                               
that between  2000 and  2009, 1,369  took their  own lives.   She                                                               
talked about the  impact suicide has on communities.   She stated                                                               
that although  the number of  suicides in Anchorage is  high, the                                                               
per  capita ratio  of suicides  is considerably  higher in  rural                                                               
areas; therefore,  she warned the  committee members not  to jump                                                               
to  conclusions  reading  just  part  of  the  statistics.    She                                                               
reemphasized the  observation made by Representative  Wilson that                                                               
the suicide  rate is higher  for the  young and the  elderly, and                                                               
she  suggested  the high  rate  of  elderly  suicides may  be  in                                                               
response to life-limiting diseases.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  FAIRCLOUGH said  she  and Representative  Gardner                                                               
are honored  to be working  on this task.   She said  the council                                                               
needs the  support of the  legislature, and she noted  that there                                                               
is a $4,000 fiscal note [included  in the committee packet].  She                                                               
related that the council attempts  to "get out into rural Alaska"                                                               
at least once a year,  because those communities are experiencing                                                               
suicide rates 2-6 times the national average.                                                                                   
8:21:07 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER  pointed  out that  there  are  instances                                                               
where people die and it is not  clear whether or not the cause of                                                               
death  was suicide.   She  emphasized  the value  in hearing  the                                                               
stories from  people in rural  Alaska first-hand.  She  said that                                                               
doing so opens  discussion of a subject that  previously may have                                                               
been  taboo.   In response  to a  question from  Chair Lynn,  she                                                               
reiterated that the common denominator  of suicide is despair and                                                               
the inability to believe that a bad situation can get better.                                                                   
8:23:01 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  FAIRCLOUGH directed  attention to  information on                                                               
page 8  of the aforementioned  report, which states  that suicide                                                               
rates  among  Alaska  Natives  are   higher  than  of  any  other                                                               
ethnicity in the  state, and are the highest of  any ethnicity in                                                               
the  U.S.   She  recollected  having  read that  that  percentage                                                               
increases  further for  Native Alaskan  boys.   She stressed  the                                                               
importance  of  prevention  and building  skills  to  help  young                                                               
people cope with,  for example, a failed relationship.   She said                                                               
village  elders  are getting  involved  in  the effort  to  build                                                               
relationships between youth and elders.   She said the first step                                                               
is talking  about suicide  and hearing from  those who  have been                                                               
affected by  it.  In response  to Chair Lynn, she  concurred that                                                               
an entire community can be affected  by the suicide of one of its                                                               
8:25:12 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  expressed appreciation  to Representatives                                                               
Fairclough and  Gardner for  the work  they are  doing.   He then                                                               
directed  attention  to page  16,  which  shows funding,  and  he                                                               
observed that "the funding doesn't follow the rate."                                                                            
8:25:53 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  FAIRCLOUGH explained  that  in  a community,  the                                                               
involvement of  individuals sometimes makes a  bigger impact than                                                               
money.   The goal,  she said,  is to  use the  money to  create a                                                               
synergy  inside of  communities  to bring  all  resources to  the                                                               
table.  Each community's situation is unique, she added.                                                                        
8:27:07 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  observed that there are  some communities                                                               
that  seem to  be  awaiting advice  and  assistance, while  other                                                               
communities  recognize  that there  is  a  problem and  that  the                                                               
solution   comes  from   within  the   community.     She  echoed                                                               
Representative Fairclough's comment that  money is not always the                                                               
answer.  She said money can pay  for training, but there is a lot                                                               
of work that can be done locally,  and the council hopes to be "a                                                               
gathering point" to get that process started through discussion.                                                                
8:28:19 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN directed attention  to page 12 of report,                                                               
which shows the percentage of  U.S. Census area deaths attributed                                                               
to  suicide from  2000-2008.   He  asked if  there  are areas  of                                                               
Alaska that more closely match the national average.                                                                            
8:29:24 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  FAIRCLOUGH estimated  that  3  percent of  Alaska                                                               
falls within the national range, and  said the exact answer is in                                                               
the report.                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHANSEN  surmised  that   the  council  must  be                                                               
concentrating its efforts  on the areas with  the highest suicide                                                               
rates.  He  asked if former Representative Woody  Salmon has been                                                               
replaced on the  board.  He then asked how  rural areas "get into                                                               
the conversation."                                                                                                              
8:31:04 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  said she is  not sure how to  answer that                                                               
question, because the  board's membership is not  filled based on                                                               
district,  but rather  based  on requirements  in  statute.   She                                                               
emphasized that the perspective of  the board is that one suicide                                                               
is too  many, and its  members will try  to reduce the  number of                                                               
suicides in Alaska no matter what the national average is.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE FAIRCLOUGH  listed entities from which  people are                                                               
serving:   the Advisory Board  on Alcoholism and Drug  Abuse, the                                                               
Alaska Mental Health  Board, the Alaska Federation  of Natives, a                                                               
counselor  or someone  from secondary  schools, a  youth, someone                                                               
who has experienced the death by  suicide [of a family member], a                                                               
person from  a rural community  not connected by roads,  a member                                                               
of clergy, a person  who is under the age of  18, [and one public                                                               
member].   She offered examples  and names.   She noted  that the                                                               
members will  be in Juneau on  January 30 - February  2, and will                                                               
be visiting legislators in the capitol.                                                                                         
8:34:18 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   GARDNER,  in   response  to   a  question   from                                                               
Representative Petersen,  said the  council has not  studied what                                                               
other  nations  in northern  climates  are  doing regarding  this                                                               
issue; however, she said she  thinks other nations are looking at                                                               
what Alaska is doing.                                                                                                           
8:34:51 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON observed that  even though data may look                                                               
good, the problem  still persists.  She explained  that the graph                                                               
on page  12 of the  report shows her  community in a  good light,                                                               
but  the statistics  only go  through 2008,  and just  last month                                                               
there were two suicides.                                                                                                        
8:36:05 AM                                                                                                                    
KATE BURKHART,  Executive Director, Advisory Board  on Alcoholism                                                               
& Drug  Abuse;   Executive Director,  Alaska Mental  Health Board                                                               
(AMHB),  Division  of  Behavioral  Health  (DBH),  Department  of                                                               
Health &  Social Services, testified  in support  of HB 21.   She                                                               
stated that  the proposed legislation  is a direct  reflection of                                                               
the council's  determination to respond  to public comment.   She                                                               
said the council held a meeting  in Fairbanks in October 2010, at                                                               
which  time  it heard  passionate  testimony  from young  people.                                                               
That is  one reason that the  council wants to augment  the youth                                                               
member requirement in  statute.  She emphasized  that the council                                                               
considers  itself  responsible  to  the citizens  of  Alaska  and                                                               
really listens to what the public has to say.                                                                                   
8:38:56 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  expressed appreciation for the  ideas that                                                               
have been  brought forward  and stated support  of the  idea that                                                               
young people can be effective in  the process.  He credited a new                                                               
legislator, Representative  Alan Dick,  for bringing  energy from                                                               
rural  Alaska.    He  questioned  whether  the  education  system                                                               
prepares young  people for diversity and  leaving their villages.                                                               
He  suggested that  education that  is relevant  to students  may                                                               
help  in eliminating  despair,  and he  opined  that the  council                                                               
should be part of that discussion.                                                                                              
8:40:34 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN  stated support  of the  changes proposed                                                               
in Version  B, and  expressed appreciation  that the  joint prime                                                               
sponsors  have  continued  the work  that  former  Representative                                                               
Richard Halford began in 2001.   He opined that extending the age                                                               
requirement of  the youth member  to 20 will be  helpful, because                                                               
the time  in a  young person's  life when he/she  is just  out of                                                               
high  school can  present choices  that can  be overwhelming  and                                                               
lead to despair.   He mentioned there are many  military bases in                                                               
Alaska, and indicated that the  addition of language in Version B                                                               
to include the military is a good idea.                                                                                         
8:42:06 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON moved  to  report  the proposed  committee                                                               
substitute (CS),  Version 27-LS0154\B,  Bullard, 1/22/11,  out of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
fiscal  notes.    There  being no  objection,  CSHB  21(STA)  was                                                               
reported out of the House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                     

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
01 HB0021A.pdf HSTA 1/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 21
02 HB 21 Sponsor Statement Final.pdf HSTA 1/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 21
03 HB021-DHSS-SPC-01-21-2011.pdf HSTA 1/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 21
01 HB 14 A.pdf HSTA 1/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 14
02 HB 14 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 1/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 14
03 HB 14 Legal Opinion - Exec. Ethics.pdf HSTA 1/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 14
04 HB 14 Exec. Ethics - Relevant Regs (1).pdf HSTA 1/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 14
05 HB 14 Sectional Analysis.pdf HSTA 1/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 14
06 HB014-LAW-CIV-01-21-11.pdf HSTA 1/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 14
01A CS for HB21 Version B.pdf HSTA 1/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 21