[dropcap]A[/dropcap]NCHORAGE-Today, Senator-elect Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) and Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) have pre-filed legislation in their respective bodies to extend the State Suicide Prevention Council to June 30, 2027. Without legislative action the Council is set to terminate this year.
In August 2018, Legislative Audit conducted a review of the State Suicide Prevention Council and found “the council operated in the public’s interest by actively broadening the public’s awareness of suicide prevention, and coordinating the efforts of other suicide prevention entities including State agencies, regional groups, coalitions, and local communities.”
“We must remember that mental health wellness is a public health issue, just as reducing any other disease or illness. Studies show that community isolation correlates to suicide and mental illness, so it is up to the public to improve outreach and resources available to reduce suicide and self-harm,” said Sen.-elect Kawasaki. “Reducing the stigma of mental illness can help Alaskans seek assistance, but we also must make care more affordable. The Alaska Suicide Prevention Council helps us get there by providing essential research and recommendations.”
A report released by the Division of Public Health last week revealed that suicide in Alaska from 2012 through 2017 rose by 13 percent and that Alaska had the highest, or second highest, suicide rate in the nation. The report also stated Alaska suicide rates were higher in rural areas, but noted urban areas saw an increase as well.
“My four years as a legislative member on the Suicide Prevention Council has taken me around the state as we work to address our chronically high rates of suicide. From Craig to Barrow, we have heard of the need for more support,” said Rep. Tarr. “We must do more in our communities, and the Council is a critical link in this work. The Council should be extended and supported.”
Senate Bill 10 sponsored by Sen.-elect Kawasaki and House Bill 22 sponsored by Rep. Tarr have both been pre-filed for introduction when the 31st Alaska State Legislature begins on January 15th in Juneau.