News from the Alaska State Legislature, the Office of Senator Giessel
For Immediate Release: May 01, 2020

Bill Expanding Alaska Mental Health Services Signed into Law

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JUNEAU – On Wednesday, a bill expanding mental health services in Alaska was signed into law by Governor Mike Dunleavy.

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.

Previously, Alaska statutes limited 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.

“I appreciate the governor’s support for this important update to our laws,” said Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, the bill’s sponsor. “SB 120 increases access to care for vulnerable patients and greatly improves behavioral healthcare delivery in Alaska. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and Physician’s Assistants are licensed and fully capable of providing this level of care, which is completely within their scope of practice. SB 120 will now allow APRNs and PAs to prescribe critical medications to patients in behavioral health 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 amid 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.”

For more information, contact Senate Majority Communications Director Daniel McDonald at (907) 465-4066 or House Majority Communications Director Austin Baird at (907) 465-6791.

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