Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205

01/26/2009 01:30 PM Senate HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES

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01:34:47 PM Start
01:36:24 PM SB35
01:55:42 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
            SB 35-EXTEND SUICIDE PREVENTION COUNCIL                                                                         
1:36:24 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVIS announced consideration of SB 35.                                                                                   
1:36:33 PM                                                                                                                    
TOM OBERMEYER,  Staff to Senator  Davis, introduced SB 35  . This                                                               
bill is to  extend the termination date of  the Statewide Suicide                                                               
Prevention Council  to June 30,  2013 and establish  an effective                                                               
date. He read from the sponsor statement:                                                                                       
     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   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  on individuals and                                                                    
MR. OBERMEYER  went on to  say that  Alaska has the  highest age-                                                               
adjusted  suicide  rate  of  all   states  at  21.1  per  100,000                                                               
population.  Alaska   has  twice  that  rate   among  the  native                                                               
population and the  unabated rate of suicide for  the past number                                                               
of  years has  been  pretty  constant. The  main  reason for  the                                                               
extension of this council is to reduce this continuing problem.                                                                 
1:38:38 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVIS  asked for questions  or comments from  the committee                                                               
concerning the extension.                                                                                                       
1:38:48 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR ELLIS  asked if the  extension date in the  bill comports                                                               
with the recommendation of the audit report.                                                                                    
1:38:58 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. OBERMEYER said he believes it does.                                                                                         
1:39:38 PM                                                                                                                    
PAT DAVIDSON,  Auditor, Legislative  Audit Division,  Juneau, AK,                                                               
responded that the extension is  supported by the recommendation.                                                               
The statute called for up  to an eight-year extension for boards,                                                               
commissions  and  councils.  Legislative Audit  recommended  four                                                               
years  because the  Council is  having difficulty  establishing a                                                               
voting  quorum.   Four  years  ago  they   recommended  that  the                                                               
governor's office  make more timely  appointments but  they still                                                               
see problems there. This year  their recommendation is to look at                                                               
the composite of the Council; make the legislative members non-                                                                 
voting  members;  perhaps loosen  some  of  the requirements  for                                                               
membership  to the  council, which  are very  narrowly construed.                                                               
Additionally,  they  recommended  that   when  making  grants  to                                                               
communities  for  suicide  prevention  issues,  the  Division  of                                                               
Behavioral  Health align  the  grants going  out  to the  suicide                                                               
prevention plan developed by the  Council. Since that time, there                                                               
has  been a  change  in  the trend  in  grant-making toward  more                                                               
comprehensive grants;  but they  still want  to see  grants align                                                               
with the goals and functions of the Council.                                                                                    
SENATOR ELLIS asked Ms. Davidson  if the Department of Health and                                                               
Social  Services (DHSS)  Behavioral  Health would  be willing  to                                                               
assist them in  examining the composition of the  Council and the                                                               
requirements for membership.                                                                                                    
MS. DAVIDSON said they certainly would.                                                                                         
1:44:04 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVIS  said she would be  willing to hold the  bill pending                                                               
discussion  with   the  executive  branch  and   bring  back  the                                                               
recommendations at the next meeting.                                                                                            
1:45:03 PM                                                                                                                    
DIANE   CASTO,  Manager,   Prevention  and   Early  Intervention,                                                               
Division of  Behavioral Health, Department  of Health  and Social                                                               
Services,  agreed  with the  committee's  comments  and with  the                                                               
recommendations  of  the  audit  report.  She  advised  that  the                                                               
division  has  had  some brief  conversations  with  the  council                                                               
members about  these changes.  The Council  will be  having their                                                               
quarterly meeting February 4   and 5  and  they will take this up                                                               
at that time.                                                                                                                   
1:47:17 PM                                                                                                                    
MELISSA STONE,  Director, Behavioral Health  Division, Department                                                               
of Health  and Social Services  (DHSS), said the  division agrees                                                               
with  the comments  and the  background that  was provided  . She                                                               
pointed out  that the Statewide  Suicide Council  was established                                                               
in fiscal  year 02  as a state  planning and  coordinating agency                                                               
for issues related  to suicide and suicide prevention.  It was in                                                               
July  2008 that  the oversight  of the  Council was  moved within                                                               
Department of Health and Social  Services under the office of the                                                               
commissioner  to Behavioral  Health.  Since that  time they  have                                                               
worked  closely  with  the  Council   to  improve  alignment  and                                                               
coordination of activities. They  have worked in partnership with                                                               
the Council  relative to  statewide planning,  outreach, research                                                               
and the  evaluation process,  and support  the extension  and the                                                               
two  recommendations made  by Legislative  Audit. She  noted that                                                               
all 15 member  seats will be filled within two  weeks, which will                                                               
help with the stability and work of the Council.                                                                                
1:49:30 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR ELLIS asked  if DHSS has talked to  the Governor's Office                                                               
of Boards and  Commissions about the difficulties  they've had in                                                               
filling positions on the Council.                                                                                               
1:49:58 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  STONE said  there has  been discussion  and some  ideas have                                                               
been considered.                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELLIS said it would  probably help the committee if those                                                               
two aspects of  the executive branch were  in alignment regarding                                                               
their recommendations to the committee.                                                                                         
1:50:30 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  PASKVAN  asked if  there  was  any difficulty  with  the                                                               
disclosure requirements in filling positions on the Council.                                                                    
MS. STONE said she did not  believe disclosure was a problem, but                                                               
the  narrow definitions  of the  some of  the seats  did make  it                                                               
1:51:20 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  DAVIS asked  for  a motion  to put  the  bill before  them                                                               
1:51:42 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  PASKVAN  moved  to  adopt  SB  35,  Version  A,  as  the                                                               
committee's working copy.                                                                                                       
1:52:22 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  DAVIS asked  for further  testimony.  Hearing none,  she                                                               
closed discussion on SB 35 and said  she would bring it back in a                                                               
couple of weeks.                                                                                                                

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