Legislature(2009 - 2010)

04/10/2009 01:38 PM Senate FIN

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SENATE BILL NO. 35                                                                                                            
     "An Act extending the termination  date of the Statewide                                                                   
     Suicide  Prevention   Council;  and  providing   for  an                                                                   
     effective date."                                                                                                           
1:39:53 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BETTYE DAVIS, SPONSOR,  spoke in support of the bill.                                                                   
TOM  OBERMEYER, STAFF,  SENATOR BETTYE  DAVIS, SPONSOR,  read                                                                   
from the Sponsor Statement (Copy on File):                                                                                      
     SB  35 extends  the termination  date  of the  Statewide                                                                   
     Suicide Prevention Council  to June 30, 2013. Suicide is                                                                   
     a  very   serious  public  health  concern   in  Alaska,                                                                   
     particularly  among young  males and  the Alaska  native                                                                   
     population.   Extension   of   the   Statewide   Suicide                                                                   
     Prevention  Council  is  important  in  curtailing  this                                                                   
     avoidable  loss of  life. The mission  of the  Statewide                                                                   
     Suicide  Prevention Council  is to  advise the  governor                                                                   
     and the  legislature on issues  relating to  suicide. In                                                                   
     collaboration     with      communities,     faith-based                                                                   
     organizations, and public-private  entities, the Council                                                                   
     works to improve the health  and wellness of Alaskans by                                                                   
     reducing  suicide  and  its effect  in  individuals  and                                                                   
     The Executive  Summary of  the July,  2005 study  by the                                                                   
     Alaska Injury Prevention  Center funded by Alaska Mental                                                                   
     Health      Trust     Authority     "Alaska      Suicide                                                                   
     Hospitalizations,  2001-2002,"  reported  that  in  2002                                                                   
     32,000 took  their own lives  in the United  States, and                                                                   
     20 times that number sought treatment for self-                                                                            
     inflicted injuries. Alaska  had the highest age-adjusted                                                                   
     suicide  rate of  all the  states in 2002  at 21.12  per                                                                   
     100,000 population,  which is  nearly twice that  of the                                                                   
     U.S.  rate  of 10.99  per  100,000.  An average  of  125                                                                   
     people die  from suicide each year in Alaska,  making it                                                                   
     the number  one cause  of death  for Alaskans  under the                                                                   
     age of 50 years (if unintentional  injuries are examined                                                                   
     individually instead of in groups).                                                                                        
     Hospitalizations for suicide  per the above study make a                                                                   
     compelling  case  for  prevention  of  suicide  and  new                                                                   
     insights into this dramatic  public health problem. Over                                                                   
     $4 million  in hospital costs  alone is spent  in public                                                                   
     funds each  year to care for suicide attempts.  This did                                                                   
     not include  physicians'  and specialists' costs.  While                                                                   
     the toll  on society and  family members by  suicide may                                                                   
    be incalculable, significant numbers were revealed:                                                                         
     · The average age for the patients was 30 years.                                                                           
     ·  The average length of each hospital  stay was 4 days,                                                                   
        with a range of 1 to 366.                                                                                               
     · The average cost per case was $8,986.                                                                                    
     ·  Over 75%  of  the hospital  costs  were paid  through                                                                   
        public funding sources.                                                                                                 
     ·  15% of  hospital  costs had  to  be  written off  for                                                                   
        patients' inability to pay.                                                                                             
     The  unabated high  rate  of suicide  in Alaska  demands                                                                   
     continued attention  and effort and earnestly  urges, if                                                                   
     not  compels, the  extension  of the  Statewide  Suicide                                                                   
     Prevention Council.  A subsequent study to  the above by                                                                   
     the Alaska Injury Prevention  Center from 9/1/03-8/31/06                                                                   
     found  426  suicides  in  Alaska  during  this  36-month                                                                   
     period,  with the  continuing  rate of  suicide at  over                                                                   
     21/100,000. Males  outnumbered females 4 to  1. The age-                                                                   
     group  20-29 had  both the greatest  number of  suicides                                                                   
     and  the highest  rate  per 100,000  population.  Alaska                                                                   
     Natives  had  a  significantly higher  average  rate  of                                                                   
     suicide  than  the non-Native  population  (51.4/100,000                                                                   
     compared  to 16.9/100,000). The  leading cause  of death                                                                   
     was  firearms  with toxicology  reports  in  1/3 of  the                                                                   
     cases. Alcohol was found  in 44% of the toxicology tests                                                                   
     and marijuana was found in 15%.                                                                                            
1:44:01 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stedman opened public testimony.                                                                                       
SAM TRIVETTE, SELF,  spoke in support of the  legislation. He                                                                   
described personal  experience with  losing a son  to suicide                                                                   
in 2007.  After his death, they  heard many reports  of other                                                                   
suicides. Recently,  seven young  people took their  lives in                                                                   
the Juneau area.  He said that young people  with the highest                                                                   
potential have the highest suicide rate.                                                                                        
Mr.  Trivette  told the  committee  that  there had  been  no                                                                   
program in the  school system to educate  students, teachers,                                                                   
and parents about  depression and suicide. The  Juneau school                                                                   
district  recently  added  a component  in  the  high  school                                                                   
curriculum  to  educate  students  regarding  depression  and                                                                   
suicide.  Another school  district with  the program  has not                                                                   
experienced suicides since its implementation.                                                                                  
Mr. Trivette  reported that the  curriculum was  supported by                                                                   
the   Statewide  Suicide   Prevention   Council,  which   has                                                                   
implemented a  number of other  initiatives at  various local                                                                   
levels.  The council  is focused  on  getting information  to                                                                   
citizens that can help lower the  suicide rate. He noted that                                                                   
no other organization is focusing  on the issue in Alaska. He                                                                   
emphasized that the  council has had an impact  in Alaska and                                                                   
urged extension of the council for another four years.                                                                          
Co-Chair Stedman expressed compassion for the family.                                                                           
Mr.  Trivette  informed the  committee  that  his nephew  had                                                                   
committed suicide that week.                                                                                                    
1:47:27 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Hoffman  MOVED  to  report  CS SB  35(HSS)  out  of                                                                   
Committee   with    individual   recommendations    and   the                                                                   
accompanying fiscal  note. There  being NO OBJECTION,  it was                                                                   
so ordered.                                                                                                                     
CSSB 35(HSS) was  REPORTED out of Committee with  a "do pass"                                                                   
recommendation and with attached  fiscal notes 1 and 2 by the                                                                   
Department of Health and Social Services.                                                                                       

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