Alaska Gov. Dunleavy signs mental health expansion bill into law

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Alaskan Gov. Mike Dunleavy has signed into law a bill to expand mental health services in that state.

The bill, S.B. 120, gives prescriptive authority to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and Physician’s Assistants for patients in court-ordered care during a crisis. Previously limited to physicians, the new statute lets those practitioners prescribe psychotropic drugs, alleviating the stress placed on physicians to be on-call 24/7 to prescribe to those in crisis.

The bill’s sponsor, Senate President Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage), said the bill would improve behavioral healthcare across the state.

“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.”

The Senate bill was merged with House bill that establishes crisis stabilization centers across the state. H.B. 290, introduced by Rep. Matt Claman (D-Anchorage), the bill creates centers to address the need for intermediate services for Alaskans in the midst of a substance abuse or behavioral health crisis. It also allows police officers to take individuals during a crisis to a stabilization center instead of arresting them.

“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,” Claman said. “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.”

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