The Alaska State House just voted to pass HB 172, a bill that could act as a catalyst for future civil unrest in Alaska. It’s now in its final stages in the Alaska Senate as SB 124 (Mental Health Facilities & Meds). These bills include amendments that could be weaponized against mentally healthy Alaskans.
Under the proposed law, if passed, “health officers” will possess full authority to take you into custody against your will, without a judge, emergency court order or representation, if that “health officer” feels there is probable cause you are suffering from mental illness and you are likely to cause serious harm to yourself or others.
The “health officer” is loosely defined as a state, municipal, or other local health officer. There are no qualifications listed on the current Alaska Department of Health & Social Services website, and an internet search reveals such persons could be hired with just a high school diploma. These same powers would also be extended to public health nurses, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, firefighters or other authorized persons.
We cannot be so naïve as to think that loopholes in the law would never be used in nefarious ways for political gain or sabotage of other persons.
Anyone may phone in to a crisis call center and report suspicious persons, triggering a visit from one of these authorized health officers. If taken into custody against your will, you will automatically be transported to a crisis stabilization center, a crisis residential center or a medical facility operated by the federal government that “performs evaluations.”
The proposed law would authorize a facility to hold you for 23 hours and 59 minutes against your will, without any due process, representation or court order, if they feel it is necessary based on their assessment.
They may also administer psychotropic medications without your consent, if deemed necessary. After that, if the facility determines you need additional treatment, but you want to leave, you will need an attorney and court proceedings to circumvent a seven-day detention and possibly a 30-day, plus 90-day, plus 180-day involuntary commitment.
This bill was crafted in such a way that it could violate the constitutional rights of mentally healthy Alaskans.
In today’s culture, there are a plethora of weak-minded individuals who may perceive healthy, mentally well, God-fearing, freedom-loving, gun-carrying, adventure-seeking, naturally immune Alaskans as a threat. Imagine minding your own business, sitting on your own front porch, when up drives a “health officer” asking nosy questions about your mental health. About the time you warn him to, “Get the hell off my property,” you might find yourself hand-cuffed and hauled away.
Go kicking and screaming or try to fight your way out and you might just end up restrained, medicated and committed. Given the polarized landscape of today’s politics and healthcare, this is very dangerous. We cannot be so naïve as to think that loopholes in the law would never be used in nefarious ways for political gain or sabotage of other persons.
HB 172/SB 124 was initiated by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, and is presented as a solution to provide better access to care for many Alaskans suffering from acute mental crises and serious behavioral health issues. But, somewhere along the way, this bill was crafted in such a way that it could violate the constitutional rights of mentally healthy Alaskans.
ALASKA WATCHMAN DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX
Buried in the fine details are wormholes leading to dark places. We Alaskans want our freedom and privacy. We do not want to be coerced or taken anywhere against our will.
The most reasonable and simplest solution to fix this is to limit the power of the health officers to provide encouragement and transport to a mental health facility on a voluntary basis only. Leave the rest to the existing laws, emergency orders and trained law enforcement.
What can you do now?
The House bill has now passed it to the Senate as SB 124. Call your Senators immediately to tell them what you think about this bill. Also call your Representatives in the House, as well as the governor. Contacts are listed below.
— Click here to read SB 124.
— Click here to read HB 172.
— Click here to contact members of the Alaska Senate Finance Committee where SB 172 currently sits.
The views expressed here are those of the author.