SUMMARY OF: A Sunset Review of the Department of Health and Social Services Statewide Suicide Prevention Council, November 15, 2004.

Purpose of the Report

In accordance with Title 24 and Title 44 of the Alaska Statutes (sunset legislation), we have reviewed the activities of the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council (SSPC). The purpose of this audit was to determine if there is a demonstrated public need for the continued existence of the council.

Legislative intent requires consideration of this report during the legislative oversight hearings to determine whether the termination date of the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council should be extended. The law currently specifies the council will terminate on June 30, 2005.

Report Conclusions

Our primary conclusion is the termination date of the council should be extended. We recommend that the legislature extend the termination date for the council to June 30, 2009. We also have concluded that the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) hindered the efforts of the council by providing inadequate financial information to the council and by diverting almost 20 percent of the council’s FY 04 funding for non-related expenditures.

Findings and Recommendations

  1. The Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) Community-based Suicide Prevention Program coordinator should ensure prevention programs conform to the Statewide Suicide Prevention Plan.Now that SSPC has a statewide suicide prevention plan in place, we believe the various community-based suicide prevention plans, at a minimum, should be consistent with the statewide plan. Developing procedures that require grant applicants to certify and explain how their grant activities and community plans are consistent with the state plan will provide more assurance that this particular state funding is being implemented in a manner consistent with the centrally-developed state plan.Accordingly, we recommend DBH modify the grant application process as necessary, requiring communities to read the statewide prevention plan and certify their local plan is consistent with the state plan. Further, we recommend that DBH report to SSPC regarding these grant applications and talk about how the various community-based efforts are consistent with the council’s plan.
  2. The Administrative Manager for DHSS Boards and Commissions and staff to the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council should develop a more formalized, informative system of reporting financial information to the council.Eighty percent of the FY 04 operating budget for the council was either lapsed or spent for items that were not directly related to suicide prevention activities. While it is unclear whether DHSS management actively prohibited the council from spending much of their funding, it is clear SSPC did not receive consistent and informative financial reports from the department.Accordingly, we recommend the administrative manager develop a comprehensive, informative format for tracking and reporting expenditure activity for SSPC and develop understandable, reliable reports on a consistent basis to assist the council in the use of its appropriated funding.
  3. The council should ensure it provides public notice of all council meetings.Since its inception in 2001, the council did not give adequate public notice of two of its 12 meetings. No public notice was provided on either the State of Alaska’s online public notice system or through publication in widely-circulated state newspapers. Additionally, the agendas for three of the council meetings did not provide periods for public comment.We recommend the council ensure that all meetings are publicly noticed, ensure that the method of notice is consistent and provide opportunity for public comment. We also recommend the council consider posting its meeting schedule on SSPC website.
  4. The Office of the Governor should make appointments to the council in a timely manner.SSPC activities were also hampered by delays in appointments made to the council. We recommend the Office of the Governor makes appointments to the council in a timely manner.