Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205
03/14/2018 01:30 PM HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES
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HB 138-MARCH: SOBRIETY AWARENESS MONTH 1:31:36 PM CHAIR WILSON announced the consideration of HB 138. 1:32:02 PM REPRESENTATIVE IVY SPOHNHOLTZ, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of HB 138 presented HB 138. She said alcohol and substance abuse in the state of Alaska has dramatic impacts. Alaska is at the top in the nation for addiction to drugs and alcohol. The McDowell report estimates the cost of drug and alcohol abuse was $3 billion in 2015. Sobriety is a constructive solution to the problems that the state faces. HB 138 permanently designates March as Sobriety Awareness Month. It recognizes and celebrates Alaskans who choose to live a sober lifestyle by providing opportunities for Alaskans to promote sobriety through activities and celebrations throughout the state. Sobriety Awareness Month has a long history in Alaska. It is an Alaska- only solution. It is not recognized in any other state because it comes from the AFN (Alaska Federation of Natives). The Alaska Native community, AFN in particular, led the creation of Sobriety Awareness Month as part of its sobriety movement to celebrate sobriety as a healthy choice for Alaska Natives. She related that in 1992, Mike Williams, a musher from Akiak and sobriety activist, ran the Iditarod carrying signatures from individuals throughout the state who had pledged sobriety. March was chosen as Sobriety Awareness Month to recognize the Iditapledge event. In 1995 the legislature designated the first sobriety month. Every year between 1995 and 2006, the governor issued a declaration declaring March Sobriety Awareness Month. In 1996 the Alaska Legislature unanimously passed House Bill 523 to amend the Uniform Alcoholism and Treatment Act to add that it is the policy of the state to recognize, appreciate, and reinforce the examples set by its citizens who lead, believe in, and support a life of sobriety. That set the tone for how the state approaches addiction treatment. Sobriety Awareness Month fits the purpose of this amendment while continuing to focus on sobriety as a positive solution to the problem of substance abuse. REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ added that HB 138 acknowledges sobriety as a healthy life style choice. She shared that she has been in recovery for about 15 years. Those who have chosen sobriety as a lifestyle should stand up proudly as a way of setting a positive example for the state's children and others in the community who may continue to struggle with addiction. 1:36:05 PM TASHA ELEZARDE, Intern, Representative Ivy Spohnholz, Alaska State Legislature, presented the following sectional for HB 138 on behalf of the sponsor: Section 1. Uncodified Law. states that the State of Alaska recognizes the importance of sobriety in Alaskan lives. Section 2. AS 44.12.150. adds a new section of statute designating March of every year as Sobriety Awareness Month, where schools, community groups, public and private agencies, and individuals can celebrate with activities related to sobriety. SENATOR MICCICHE asked Ms. Elezarde how she envisions getting the message about the importance of sobriety out to young people in schools and communities around Alaska. MS. ELEZARDE said the sponsor's office is communicating with many organizations as they are working on passing the bill. They received a letter of support from the student government of Soldotna High School. They are reaching out to Recover Alaska. They are reaching out to tribal organizations because this bill and this month are founded in the Alaska Federation of Natives sobriety awareness movement. They will continue to reach out and she expects that Representative Spohnholz has more ideas for the future of Sobriety Awareness Month if the bill passes the legislature. SENATOR BEGICH referenced the Healthy Alaskans 2020 health assessment and asked how outcomes associated with sobriety can be measured. REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ said there is no good measure of sobriety in Alaska. The state has not tried to measure it. They would need to intentionally add a question to some of the polls being done. The state asks high school students whether they have consumed alcohol recently. The state has seen a promising downward trend for that. 1:40:23 PM SENATOR BEGICH said he likes the bill because it offers the potential to measure good behavior instead of negative outcomes. REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ said the behavioral health research study shows that the vast majority of young people who were measured do not consume alcohol of drugs. Some positive messaging is starting to come about celebrating sobriety, particularly by Recover Alaska. Students compare themselves to what they think their peers are doing. They hear about negative things and think the vast majority of their peers are doing those things. That isn't necessarily the case and when that is celebrated, more people see that as the norm. It's called positive social norming. SENATOR MICCICHE observed that the McDowell Group report does not address the causes of alcohol and substance abuse. He said the state sometimes gets the message out that sobriety is the right path, but more Alaskans than anywhere else choose a less positive path. He wonders how they determine the causes and frontload a solution as opposed to always dealing with an existing problem. REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ said the McDowell Group report was designed to measure the economic impacts, not to understand the causation of addiction. She shared that she took over as bill sponsor because positive social norming helps reduce alcohol and drug abuse and because it is more than a one-time thing. The bill establishes March Sobriety Awareness Month as a permanent event, so activists can focus on making change in communities throughout the state. CHAIR WILSON said he recently came from an agency with a substance abuse treatment facility and his wife manages a substance abuse treatment program in Anchorage. He opined that this is an important thing for Alaska. 1:45:54 PM TIFFANY HALL, Executive Director, Recover Alaska, supported HB 138. She said Recover Alaska is a multisector action group working to reduce excessive alcohol use and its harms statewide. Recover Alaska partners include the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, the Mat-Su Health Foundation, Providence Health and Services, the Southcentral Foundation, State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and a dozen other partners across the state who all support the bill. The vision of Recover Alaska is for Alaskans to live free from the consequences of alcohol misuse so that all are empowered to achieve their full potential. Their work requires individual, social, and systemic change, which they do by making connections, raising awareness of the impacts of alcohol misuse, advocating for policy change to create a safer environment, and by shifting perceptions. Recover Alaska wants to make it more normal and comfortable to talk about substance use disorder. They want to correct the falsehood that addiction is a moral failing and recognize it as the chronic disease that it is. They know that treatment works, and that recovery is possible. They are not an abstinence-only initiative. They promote healthy drinking, at whatever level that might be. She shared that she has been sober for 8.5 years. Her experience has been that talking about alcoholism makes people very uncomfortable. For some, there is stigma associated with sobriety so anything to reduce the stigma of sobriety is a positive thing. When she disclosed her substance use disorder early on in her recovery to her doctor, her doctor advised her not to tell other medical professionals about her disease. This was a slap in the face just as she was coming to terms with the devastating shame of her substance use disorder. Her doctor advised her not to share her health history because insurance parity doesn't exist and because so many people would view her differently. This was a setback to her self-worth, but she's stronger for it and has found her voice. MS. HALL said she owes her life to recovery. She is humbled and proud to share her story, but she is even more honored to stand for the hundreds of people across the state who live in recovery. Designating March as Sobriety Awareness Month gives everyone the opportunity to step away from the shroud that alcohol places over Alaska and to be proud of their choices to take back their lives. Whatever the reason for sobriety, everyone should celebrate that choice. Alcohol is related to so many negative consequences that choosing to abstain has a positive effect, not just on the individual but the entire community. Representative Spohnholz already mentioned the $3 billion cost every year. Alaska's mortality rate is over twice as high as the rest of nation. 1:50:58 PM She said by encouraging, celebrating, and supporting sobriety, Alaska can improve its fiscal climate as well as helping human lives. Recovery Alaska focuses on the full spectrum from prevention, to treatment, to recovery. People so often want to see metrics that it is easy for recovery to be pushed to the back burner. It is difficult to track people's success when they stop showing up in the emergency department or stop getting arrested. It is really difficult to highlight all the positives things that come from that, especially because the negative associations with substance use disorders make people want to hide that part of themselves. There aren't many studies that track people once they get sober. Additionally, relapses are a common part of recovery. It takes most people about seven times before they maintain long-term recovery, but it's so easy for people to see that as a failure. They do have some quantitative feedback. Recovery Alaska shares stories through their Day One video series. MS. HALL said many people have shared and liked them and written their own stories on Facebook. People are hungry for this conversation. Designating a full month to call attention to the benefits of sobriety justify her organization's efforts in doing things like making sure there are nonalcoholic drink options at every restaurant and bar in the state and that they are highlighted for throwing sober dance parties. They always hear thank you and please keep doing this when they have sobriety events. Designating Sobriety Awareness Month is a wonderful way of showcasing sobriety stories. It is also an important way to get sobriety stories in the media. It validates the choice those in recovery have made. They fight for their lives every single day, knowing they can't do it alone. She said as far as causes, they know that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), intergenerational trauma, and the cycle of abuse really play into this. Her opinion, supported by research, is that isolation is one of worst things for people. This bill champions connections for people who feel less than or not a part of things. This is a good step toward allowing the state to move toward sobriety and recovery. 1:55:04 PM SENATOR BEGICH called her testimony compelling. He hoped that, working together, they could find ways to measure and promote positive outcomes instead of dwelling on the negative. MS. HALL said 78 percent of youth are not currently drinking alcohol. Positive social norms are absolutely the way to go. They are working with the Alaska Wellness Coalition to do more of this positive messaging, especially for youth. 1:56:17 PM CATHERINE MCGLASHAN, Representing Self, said she is affiliated with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council Inc. Recovery Services, and the Alaska Therapeutic Court Alumni. She shared that she is in long-term recovery; she has not used a mind-altering substance since July 2012. Her story is similar to Ms. Hall's, but because her story involves prescription abuse, she received 47 felony counts of misconduct with a controlled substance. In 2012, she was finally ready to give up after 20 years with drugs and alcohol and incarceration. She said that drugs and alcohol cause isolation for so many people. They are at a point in the movement where they are finally allowing people to talk about it and removing the stigma, allowing people to be vulnerable and transparent about what is going on in their lives or their families' lives. Naming it Sobriety Awareness Month goes to another level. They need to provide awareness, and providing awareness turns it into an action plan. She is still in recovery and works in the recovery field. The other day she heard someone say that when they start to change the people they start to change the village. The transparency effort and celebration of sobriety can change Alaska, start changing the youth, and make this attractive to people. They need dances and opportunities to socialize so they can continue to live everyday lives in recovery. MS. MCGLASHAN said she struggled her whole life with substance use disorder. She went into her first treatment facility at age 13. A lot of it stems from insecurities, an inability to socialize, and a lot of traumatic childhood events. Since she has been in recovery, she has been able to change her family's life--nieces, nephews, a ripple effect. She is 100 percent in support of HB 138 to bring any awareness to what is going on in the state, especially in some of the villages. 2:01:07 PM GREGORY NOTHSTINE, President, Sobermiut: Reviving Our Spirit, supported HB 138. He thanked the committee on behalf of all the people who are testimony that life can be lived and enjoyed without consuming mind-altering substances. When the legislature amended the Uniform Alcoholism and Treatment Act in 1996, AS 47.37.010, he was the AFN sobriety coordinator. Since 2006 there has been no champion to introduce the resolution about sobriety awareness. He said the legislature has been proactive by recognizing the merits of a positive lifestyle led by thousands of Alaskans. They benefit Alaska by improving the quality of life for themselves, their families, and communities, reducing the incidence and social ills caused by alcohol and drug abuse, and helping to reduce the burden on local, state, and federal government in having to pay for all the social ills caused by alcohol and drug abuse. He recalled collecting 10,000 signatures for the AFN sobriety movement and handed them to musher Mike Williams. It was a symbolic gesture of how they need to start a discussion of how to curb and mitigate the problems that many of their communities were facing. He said perhaps everyone remembers the Pulitzer Prize-winning series A People in Peril in the Anchorage Daily News documenting the tragedy and trauma of alcohol and drug abuse at that time. When the AFN sobriety movement started, the chairman was the late General John Schaeffer who asked what they will do differently because there are already so many prevention programs. MR. NOTHSTINE said members of the council said that no one talks about Mr. and Mrs. Joe Smith who never drink who are being shut out of all the important decisions. They wanted to support them, which led to a grass roots sobriety movement. As time went on people began to appreciate the idea of sobriety. It became okay to talk about being in recovery, but after a while it subsided. After 2006, the sobriety awareness month message lost focus and championship. Then the heroin epidemic came. He emphasized that a way must be found to acknowledge and support people living sober lifestyles. They are a protective factor. 2:10:34 PM CHAIR WILSON opened public testimony. CARRIE AMOTT, Representing Self, stated support for HB 138. She said she helps run a recovery community organization and her job is to organize sobriety events in the hopes of building a sober community among Juneau residents. The idea is to form a network of people to lift each other up and provide peer support. She is in long-term recovery with three years of sobriety. She knows how important it is to have community surrounding efforts to stay sober and learn how to have a productive, healthy, and fun lifestyle. A month to recognize sobriety brings it into public view. Celebrating sobriety champions healthy lifestyles and makes it cool. Recognizing sobriety provides a platform for all community members to make positive choices. 2:14:14 PM CHAIR WILSON closed public testimony. SENATOR MICCICHE said people are focused on the opioid issue, but a statement from the police yesterday was "alcohol, alcohol, alcohol, and then alcohol," so they should not lose focus on alcohol. Things have changed so that it seems almost cool to be in recovery instead of hiding it. He referenced Protective Factors for Youth Substance Abuse and Delinquency: The Role of Afterschool Programs from the McDowell Group. He asked Ms. Hall how to break the cycle for the next generation. MS. HALL said there is a national shift about recovery in general. More and more musicians and actors are coming out as being in recovery. Recover Alaska has over 11,000 Facebook followers. When they share recovery stories, especially of famous people, people love them. Sober is sexy. Sobriety apparel is available because they are saying they don't need drugs and alcohol to be crazy and have a good time. Parents are telling kids to expect lots of drinking in college and that it's a rite of passage, but many youth are saying that is not what they want to do. A lot of pushback they get about the 78 percent of youth who do not drink are from adults saying that is not possible, but the numbers show that underage drinking is going down. There is hope for future generations, particularly with the afterschool idea. She said she went to Iceland last fall with a group. Iceland has reduced underage drinking from nearly 40 percent to 5 percent in the past 20 years. There were policy changes. The age of adulthood changed from 16 to 18. They increased residential treatment opportunities for youth, but primarily they hear from people running afterschool programs. In partnership with the Mat-Su Health Foundation and the Children's Trust, they are applying for a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for more afterschool programs in the Mat-Su Valley. If it works, they would seek to expand that to the rest of the state. MS. HALL said the Alaska Resilience Initiative is doing a lot of work around some of these causes and how to stop abuse before it starts. What they hear from a lot from youth, especially in rural Alaska, is they don't know what else to do because in some of the really small villages, the majority of adults are drinking in the afternoon when a shipment comes in and the youth go to the free events because of the food. It's heartbreaking and not what they want. They are trying to figure out how to bring programs and services out there to show another way of life. No one grows up saying, "I really want to be an alcoholic." 2:20:05 PM SENATOR MICCICHE noted Senator Giessel's bill on beefing up the funding for substance programs for kids through afterschool programs that the Alaska Children's Trust, Boys and Girls Club, and other organizations will assist with that are very promising at stopping those risks early. MS. HALL said the biggest factor in the lives of youth are their parents and other respected adults to be good models and have conversations with their children or other young people who look up to them. Talk about it early, talk about it often. 2:22:07 PM CHAIR WILSON closed public testimony. CHAIR WILSON entertained a motion to move the bill from committee. 2:22:23 PM SENATOR VON IMHOF moved to report HB 138 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes. CHAIR WILSON found no objection and HB 138 moved from the Senate Health and Social Services Standing Committee with the understanding that Legislative Legal is authorized to make any necessary technical or conforming adjustments. SENATOR MICCICHE asked Chair Wilson to clarify that the fiscal note is zero. CHAIR WILSON clarified that the Division of Behavioral Health submitted a zero fiscal note.