Murkowski Pushes for Boost to Fight “Staggering” Suicide Rates

Senator Gets Commitment of Greater Resources to Fight Suicide Epidemic, Introduces Bill to Give Tribes Equal Access to Food Donations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski urged her colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to give resources to Alaska Natives, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians a higher priority by filing an amendment to the Labor/Health and Human Services Appropriations bill that would move $10 million from the health care law to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suicide prevention efforts.

Funding the Fight Against Suicide

In remarks shared before the Appropriations Committee, Murkowski laid out the “staggering” numbers and human toll of the epidemic in Alaska. Click here to listen to the entire discussion.  (Some Appropriations Committee hearings are broadcast audio-only.)

Though some raised concerns about the politics of taking the relatively small portion of health care bill funds for the amendment, Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) interrupted, saying “I would like to assure the Senator from Alaska that I will do everything possible to make certain this matter is resolved.”  Murkowski responded “I appreciate the assurance from the Chairman … These suicide rates are unacceptable.”

She closed by saying “I appreciate and recognize when I have the word of the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, that that is as good as a positive vote.”

Leveling the Playing Field for Rural Nutrition and Food Security

Senator Murkowski took two different avenues to strengthen the safety net for vulnerable Alaskans, also introducing legislation that would fix an omission in tax law that does not allow corporate food donations to be tax deductible if they are donated to American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.

“We allow so many charitable organizations like the Salvation Army to take in food donations and let the generous givers write it off on their taxes, but that door is shut right now for Tribes, said Murkowski.  “There are 50 million Americans uncertain of their next meal, a disproportionate number of which are Alaska Natives, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians. By closing this harmful loophole, we can increase donations to some of our most vulnerable communities by clearing a path for donations directly to tribal organizations.”