GCDSE Advocacy Report highlights legislative actions impacting Trust beneficiaries

The Alaska Governor’s Council on Disabilities & Special Education (GCDSE) recently released its “Preliminary Joint Advocacy Report” on the 2019 legislative session. The report highlights actions taken during the 2019 regular session and first special session that impact Trust beneficiaries – Alaskans with mental illness, developmental disabilities, chronic alcoholism, Alzheimer’s disease, or traumatic brain injury.

 

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From a budget perspective, the joint report highlights items included in the state operating, capital, and mental health budgets. They include:

  • Medicaid Services
    • An $86.6 million (General Fund) reduction to Medicaid Services
    • Maintains funding levels for Adult Preventative Dental and Medicaid Optional Services
  • Behavioral Health Treatment & Prevention
    • A $6.14 million reduction to Behavioral Health Treatment & Recovery Grants, combined with a rate increase resulting in an additional $20 million, provides a net increase in funds available for behavioral health providers
    • Adds $4 million in federal funds for Behavioral Health Opioid Grants
    • A proposed 5% rate reduction for behavioral health services
  • Housing and Homeless Programs
    • Maintains FY19 funding for the Homeless Assistance Program, Accessibility Improvements, Special Needs Housing Grants, and Home Modifications to Retain Housing
  • Senior and Disability Programs
    • Maintains FY19 funding for Senior & Disabilities Community-Based Grants, AHFC Senior Citizen Housing Development Program, and Alaska Senior Benefits (+$800,000)
    • Due to federal funding and a planned rate increase, DHSS predicts they will maintain the same level of service for Pioneer Homes despite an overall cut in the budget
  • Early Learning programs
    • Maintains FY19 funding levels for Head Start, Pre-Elementary, and Early Childhood grants, Parents as Teachers, and Best Beginnings
  • Corrections
    • Maintains FY19 funding for behavioral health treatment inside institutions
    • Adds $1 million to Community Residential Centers “to improve reentry services”
    • Adds $2.54 million (CBR fund) plus $1.45 million (MHTAAR) to expand the mental health unit at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center
    • Maintains FY19 funding for Discharge Incentive Grants and specialized mental health training for Department of Corrections staff

 

The budget bills have been transmitted to Governor Mike Dunleavy, and are currently awaiting his signature or vetoes.

The report also highlights bills passed during the 2019 session that impact Trust beneficiaries. These include SB 10, which extends the work of the Suicide Prevention Council for an additional 8 years, as well as SB 93, which creates a tax-free loan repayment program to incentivize health care professionals to work in Alaska. The report also includes SB 44 – a bill that clarifies that physician assistants can provide telemedicine, in order to “extend the reach of medicine to underserved areas and populations.”

Still on the table for 2020 are bills related to Medicaid work requirements (HB 13/SB 7), repeal of the Certificate of Need Program (HB 17/SB 1), repeal of the Alaska Senior Benefits Program (HB 60/SB 58), and bills related to telemedicine expansion, opioids, API, and Pioneer Home and Veterans’ Home rates.

Alaska’s second special session is set to begin on July 8.