The Senate unanimously backed a bill on Thursday that would keep the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council operating through 2027.

Sen. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, sponsored Senate Bill 10, which passed 19-0, and must still clear the House before May 15, the final day of session and the Legislature’s expected adjournment date.

The council’s job is to improve public awareness on suicide and advise the governor on suicide-related policy decisions.

“The statistics are bleak and we talk about numbers, we talk about 22 active duty and veterans die every day through suicide,” Sen. Kawasaki said. “But statistics only talk to one part to the story.

“These are people. These are Alaskans. These are our friends, our colleagues, our neighbors. They’re our sisters, our brothers. They each have an important life. If we can one day not have a suicide council, that would be great because there wouldn’t be a need.”

Several senators spoke on the need for the council, some from personal experience to underscore points Kawasaki noted, including how those who served or serve in the military are twice as likely to commit suicide.

“This is a council of hope,” said Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, “and I think it’s one that has the potential to dramatically reduce what we’re seeing not only in the general population but veteran suicides in our state.”

In March, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Alaska chapter spent two days in the Capitol talking to lawmakers and staff about critical suicide prevention approaches.

Advocates arrived from Bethel, Newtok, Toksook Bay, Anchorage, Fairbanks and Washington D.C., national home to the organization.
Part of their mission was to advocate for Senate Bill 10 and its companion House Bill 22 by Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage.

Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.