Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/16/2004 01:10 PM House JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 487 - DETENTION OF MINORS Number 0163 CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 487, "An Act relating to the detention of delinquent minors in correctional facilities; relating to emergency detention of minors for evaluation for involuntary admission for mental health treatment; relating to detention of intoxicated minors and minors incapacitated by alcohol or drugs; and providing for an effective date." Number 0179 PATTY WARE, Director, Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), Department of Health & Social Services (DHSS), explained that HB 487 modifies the statutes pertaining to delinquency, alcohol, and mental health so that state statute will be in compliance with the federal requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), which prohibits the state from holding in a locked facility, whether an adult facility or a juvenile justice facility, kids who are only there by virtue of a mental illness, a disability, or severe intoxication. She went on to say: I do want to emphasis that this does not impact the state's ability to hold juvenile offenders accountable, or to hold accused juvenile delinquents in adult facilities in rural Alaska as necessary when they're charged with a crime. The issue is that right now, Alaska statutes allow us to hold, for certain lengths of time, both juveniles and adults when they're severely intoxicated or when they have a mental illness - for purposes of their own protection - but the federal rules require that we have state statutes that [are] consistent with the federal language. So we need to have this bill move forward so that we can retain our existing federal dollars that we receive from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention [OJJDP]. We have prepared a one-page summary sheet for the committee ... that will let you all know that we are already ... grossly out of compliance with the federal requirements. We are working hard to address that issue, but in essence what you have before makes statutory changes for Alaska statutes so that we're in compliance with federal requirements. I guess I also want to say that the federal changes took effect on October 1 of 2003, and so we have already been, as a state system, making the necessary changes so that we're not holding "Title 47" juveniles in juvenile or adult facilities. We're working closely with the Department of Public Safety [DPS] and the [Alaska State] Troopers so that as they identify high-need areas, we can develop alternative for these kids. Number 0314 MS. WARE added: I also want to say to the committee that we already have a wide array of alternatives across the state; we have non-secure shelters in a variety of urban and rural locations in Alaska. We are using these federal funds, as well as some [general fund (GF)] dollars, to expand those non-secure shelters so that ... we have more appropriate placements for kids who are not charged with a crime but who clearly have needs that need to be addressed. So one example I would share with you is that in Bethel, ... 25 percent of our detention admissions in fiscal year [FY] 03 were made up of "Title 47" holds, either alcohol or mental health. We work closely with the [Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC)] so that they would basically reserve a couple of hospital beds to accept those young people in, which is frankly more appropriate anyway because then they can refer them to appropriate behavioral health services as necessary. I'd be happy to answer any questions. CHAIR McGUIRE noted that the aforementioned summary sheet in members' packets is dated 2/20/04. REPRESENTATIVE HOLM asked what current costs are as compared to the cost of complying with federal standards. MS. WARE replied: These are not, technically, new standards. The Act has been around since 1974, [so] Alaska [has] been struggling with these requirements for many years. There will not be significant or, frankly, really, additional cost to come into compliance because, in practice, we've been working on this for many years. In terms of the loss of the federal revenue, what you would see is a reduction in alternatives for juveniles that we currently fund with these dollars, including ... the non-secure shelters that we already have in Fairbanks, Juneau, Kenai, Kodiak, Ketchikan, Valdez, [and] Sitka, with about eight more due to come on line within the next, roughly, six months. Number 0577 MS. WARE, in response to a further question, said that of the $700,000 in federal funds that the state is currently receiving and that would be jeopardized by failing to comply with federal standards, roughly $100,000 to $120,000 is spent on compliance- monitoring activities, which verify that the department's data is accurate and that it can do "site visits." The bulk of the remaining money goes toward funding services in Alaska. She added, "This is 'best practice'; it is important for ... Alaska not to be incarcerating juveniles, in either adult or juvenile facilities, when they haven't committed an offense." REPRESENTATIVE HOLM asked what the state is proposing to do differently in order to come into compliance with federal requirements. MS. WARE replied: The changing of our ways has [consisted of] ... intensive partnering with a number of ... nonprofit ... [and local and] state government agencies including ... the [Alaska State] Troopers, [the] Office of Children's Services within [the DHSS], as well as [the] Division of Behavioral Health. The expansion ... in Bethel is a very good example of a very positive partnership, which has, in a very positive way, impacted what was severe overcrowding in the Bethel Youth Facility for almost a decade. Our admissions and our overcrowding are significantly reduced in addition to getting much improved services for those kids. ... In Fairbanks, ... as a result of both ... this federal change as well as a group effort at the local level, ... there has been the addition of some "detox beds" that will serve only juveniles; in fact, I think it began this week. So essentially this has kind of forced us to push the dialog with existing providers in Anchorage that includes both Providence [Alaska Medical Center], the single point of entry, as well as [the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API)]. And, as I may not have mentioned specifically enough, we are in the process of the procurement piece for adding non-secure shelters - we already signed the agreement in the [Matanuska-Susitna ("Mat-Su")] valley, we're adding a shelter in Anchorage, in Barrow, in Wrangell, in Dillingham, Kotzebue, Emmonak, and Hooper Bay - and we're making those decisions based on the high-need areas. I mean I recognize that we don't have, quote, "extra money" to fund services, but in essence we do have to take the data that we have and plug the dollars in where those high-need areas are, and we're using input from [the DPS] to help us do that. Number 0773 MS. WARE, in response to further questions, said that Fairbanks has had a non-secure shelter for many years and that that shelter will continue to operate, and indicated that the aforementioned detox beds in Fairbanks are at the Ralph Purdue Center and are being managed by the Fairbanks Native Association's Behavioral Health Services. She then relayed that the primary "needs" areas are not in urban Alaska; in urban areas there are already alternatives to placing "Title 47" juveniles in locked facilities. Therefore, the goal of this legislation is to change Alaska statute to reflect the department's current practice. Ms. Ware noted that the federal requirements do allow states some level of violations per 100,000 population. In essence, the department recognizes that there will always be some situations in rural Alaska wherein the state does the best that it can but still has to use a locked facility because it is the only place, the safest place, to hold a "Title 47" juvenile, but the goal is to target funding towards high-need communities such as Emmonak and Hooper Bay. CHAIR McGUIRE asked how "grave disability" is defined. MS. WARE indicated that there is a definition in AS 47.30, and that she would provide its exact wording to the committee later. In practice, however, if a law enforcement officer believes that someone, through some level of disability, poses a threat to himself/herself or others, is gravely disabled, and there is no local evaluation facility, then state statute allows that person to be put in an adult - or, in the DJJ's case, a juvenile - facility until he/she can be transported to the nearest appropriate evaluation facility. CHAIR McGUIRE said she'd like to know the distinction between grave disability and mental illness. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG indicated that he may have a conflict because of his son, and asked to be excused from voting on this issue. Number 1045 CHAIR McGUIRE objected, indicating that should a vote be required, Representative Gruenberg would be allowed to participate. MS. WARE, in response to questions from Representative Gara, reiterated her earlier explanations regarding what current practice consists of, what the bill does, what will change because of the bill's passage, and how violations will be viewed by the federal government. REPRESENTATIVE GARA expressed alarm that the state has been in the practice of locking up "Title 47" juveniles and is only changing that practice because of the threat of losing federal funding. MS. WARE replied that the state has been working very hard to change that practice and the federal government has been very understanding of violations up to this point; now, however, the federal government is requiring a higher level of compliance. CHAIR McGUIRE, after looking through current statute, relayed that the definition of "gravely disabled" can be found under AS 47.30.915, which says: (7) "gravely disabled" means a condition in which a person as a result of mental illness (A) is in danger of physical harm arising from such complete neglect of basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, or personal safety as to render serious accident, illness, or death highly probable if care by another is not taken; or (B) will, if not treated, suffer or continue to suffer severe and abnormal mental, emotional, or physical distress, and this distress is associated with significant impairment of judgment, reason, or behavior causing a substantial deterioration of the person's previous ability to function independently; CHAIR McGUIRE asked why, on page 2, line 26, the term "gravely disabled" is used instead of simply saying, "those who are in protective custody due to mental illness". She said that she is trying to envision a circumstance wherein someone is gravely disabled but not also mentally ill. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG noted that when the definition of "gravely disabled" was initially adopted, it had been carefully crafted for the purpose of filling a specific gap in the law. He asked that this language not be changed in the bill. MS. WARE offered to do some research on this issue and get back to the committee. REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS said why it isn't acceptable to hold juveniles in a locked facility for the crime of minor consuming. MS. WARE said that because minor consuming is a "status offense," meaning that someone is only charged by virtue of his/her being a certain age, law enforcement is not allowed to hold such an individual in a locked facility. Protective custody pertains solely to the "Title 47" elements related to severe intoxication, and is a judgment call on the part of law enforcement. Number 1476 ALLEN STOREY, Lieutenant, Central Office, Division of Alaska State Troopers, Department of Public Safety (DPS), said that the DPS supports HB 487 and is working with the DJJ in an effort to comply with the federal requirements. He noted that although some rural communities have had a bit of difficulty in complying with the federal requirements, they are working diligently to correct their situations. He opined that the provisions of the federal requirements are workable, and relayed that the DJJ has made a firm commitment to working with and training law enforcement personnel across the state to ensure that there are a minimum of violations. CHAIR McGUIRE offered that the committee would like to see those efforts continued and appreciates all the work done thus far. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG noted a typo on page 2, line 30: the word "take" should be "taken". CHAIR McGUIRE, after ascertaining that no one else wished to speak on the bill, closed public testimony on HB 487. Number 1612 REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG moved to report HB 487 out of committee with individual recommendations [and the accompanying zero fiscal notes]. There being no objection, HB 487 was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.