News from the Alaska State Legislature, the Office of Senator Giessel
For Immediate Release: March 24, 2020

Legislature Expands Alaska Mental Health Services

Giessel_stamp.jpgSenator Cathy Giessel   Web Site    Send Email

JUNEAU – The Alaska Legislature today passed a bill expanding mental health services in Alaska.

Senate Bill 120 grants Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) and Physician’s Assistants (PAs) the authority to prescribe psychotropic medication, without consent, to patients in court-ordered inpatient care during a crisis situation.

Alaska statutes currently limit prescriptive authority in crisis situations to physicians. Most inpatient psychiatric care in Alaska, however, is performed by Licensed Independent Practitioners, as well as APRNs and PAs. Limiting this type of sensitive care and supervision places unnecessary stress on physicians by requiring them to be on-call at all times.

“SB 120 increases accessibility to care for vulnerable patients and greatly improves psychiatrist retention in this field,” said Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, the bill’s sponsor. “Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and Physician’s Assistants are licensed and fully capable of providing this level of care – as they do in many other states and is completely within their scope of practice – and should be allowed to prescribe crises medications to patients in treatment facilities.”  

The Senate bill was merged with House Bill 290, by Representative Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, which establishes crisis stabilization centers. These centers will address the unmet need for intermediate services for those experiencing a behavioral health or substance abuse crisis. As an alternative to arrest, the bill also authorizes police officers to take individuals to crisis stabilization centers.

“In Alaska and across the nation, we face challenges in how we address people in our communities who struggle with mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, and poverty,” said Rep. Claman. “Police and other first responders have frequent contact with people in the midst of a mental illness or substance abuse crisis. SB 120 adds a much-needed intermediate treatment option for those suffering from a mental health or substance abuse crisis and gives our public safety professionals an essential alternative to improve public safety.”

SB 120 passed the Senate by a vote of 15-4 and the House 28-7, for a combined vote of 43-11. The bill is now on its way to Governor Mike Dunleavy’s desk for his signature.

For more information, contact Senate Majority Communications Director Daniel McDonald at (907) 465-4066.


Share this on Twitter Tweet icon-facebook.png Share

News & Videos more >

Senator Bert Stedman

Senator Stedman Thanks U.S. Coast Guard for 230 Years of Service

JUNEAU – On Tuesday, Senator Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, congratulated the U.S. Coast Guard for its 230th year anniversary.  Full Story >>

Senate Majority Press Press

Statements from Senators on Passing of Rep. Gary Knopp

Senate President Cathy Giessel and Soldotna Senator Peter Micciche today issued the following statements after the tragic death of Soldotna Representative Gary Knopp....  Full Story >>

Senator Cathy Giessel

Senate President Giessel Makes Selection to Redistricting Board

ANCHORAGE – Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, today appointed John Binkley to serve on the Redistricting Board  Full Story >>

Senate Majority Press Press

State Senators Commend Approval of Ambler Road Project

ANCHORAGE – Members of the Alaska Senate Majority this week commended a decision by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to approve a proposed route for the Ambler Road project....  Full Story >>

Senator Bert Stedman

Historic Permanent Fund Transfer Protects Alaska’s Future

On Tuesday, the State of Alaska made one of the most important investments in its 61-year history: a roughly $5 billion transfer from the Alaska Permanent Fund’s Earnings Reserve...  Full Story + Video >>

Senator Bert Stedman

Treasury Announces PPP Fix for Commercial Fish, Deadline Approaching

JUNEAU – Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, applauded a rule today that fixed an issue for commercial fishermen who were unable to receive adequate funding under the Paycheck Protection...  Full Story >>

Senator Gary Stevens

State Senators Thank UA President Johnsen for His Service

ANCHORAGE – Members of the Alaska Senate today issued the following statements after hearing news of University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen’s resignation....  Full Story >>

Senator Click Bishop

Alaskans to Celebrate First Walter Harper Day on Sunday, June 7

FAIRBANKS – On Sunday, June 7, Alaska will celebrate the first annual Walter Harper Day in recognition of the Athabascan-Irish man who, on June 7, 1913 became the first person to stand...  Full Story >>

Senator Peter Micciche

Sen. Micciche Calls for Halt to DPS Plan to Centralize 911 Service

SOLDOTNA – Senator Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, this week urged the leadership of Alaska Department of Public Safety (DPS) to halt their plan that would centralize 911 response...  Full Story >>

Senator Peter Micciche

Sen. Micciche Commends Alaska LNG Milestone

JUNEAU – The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced today it had authorized the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) to liquefy and export liquefied natural...  Full Story >>

Find your Senator full map