SLC Human Services & Public Safety Committee

Among states’ most pressing concerns are ensuring the public’s general welfare and protection, with both areas constituting increasing shares of state budgets. States have been taking the lead in health policy, welfare reform and child care, and have maintained their predominant role in the areas of public safety, corrections and sentencing. The Human Services & Public Safety Committee has a broad agenda which most typically addresses the challenges states face in the areas of human services and corrections, and policies and programs utilized to meet them. The Committee has undertaken assessments of Medicaid and reform; nursing shortages; long-term healthcare; and such corrections issues as criminal justice DNA statutes; the aging inmate population; female offenders; mental health parity in prisons, and prison staffing patterns in Southern states.

2018-19
Chair

Senator
Katrina Shealy

South Carolina

2018-19
Vice Chair

Representative Fredrick Love, Arkansas

Representative
Fredrick Love

Arkansas

Immediate
Past Chair

(Former) Senator
Doug Overbey

Tennessee

Committee
Liaison

Roger Moore

Roger Moore
Policy Analyst

Recent Research


Policy Analysis | August 20, 2018

Suicides Rates in the South

Roger Moore, Policy Analyst

In June 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report documenting the high – and growing – number of suicides across the United States. In 2016, the last year for which the CDC has comprehensive data, 45,000 people died by suicide, an increase of 25.4 percent over 1999 levels. Nevada, where deaths by suicide were down 1 percent between 1999-2016, was the only state that did not experience an increase during this period.

Seven of the 15 states in the South, including Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia, experienced increases in suicide rates between 1999-2016 that were higher than the national average of 25.4 percent. The remaining seven states in the region were below the average, from a high of 24.2 percent in Tennessee, to a low of 10.6 percent in Florida.

Among Southern states, Oklahoma had the highest number of deaths by suicide per capita in 2016, with 21 per 100,000, followed by West Virginia, Missouri and Arkansas, all of which were among the top 15 nationally in this category. Meanwhile, North Carolina, Mississippi and Texas had the fewest number of suicides per 100,000 in the South, with rates of 13.0, 12.7 and 12.6, respectively. The national average was 13.5 deaths by suicide per 100,000, a number surpassed by 10 states in the SLC region.

There are many factors that can cause a person to consider suicide, including relationship problems, substance abuse disorders, financial difficulties, deterioration in physical health, personal crises, legal problems and loss of housing. Additionally, approximately 46 percent of suicide cases in 2016 included individuals with known mental health conditions.

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Policy Analysis | June 11, 2018

Distracted Driving Laws in SLC Member States

Roger Moore, Policy Analyst

In recent years, states across the South have enacted laws to mitigate distracted driving caused by the proliferation of cell phones and other portable electronic devices. The extent to which the laws impact drivers varies by state, though there are similarities across the region. Fourteen of 15 SLC member states, for example, prohibit all drivers from texting while driving and one, Missouri, prohibits texting by all drivers under the age of 21. Similarly, 10 of the 15 states prohibit all usage of wireless communication devices by novice drivers, generally defined as drivers under 18 years old who hold restricted licenses. Most states in the region have not implemented statewide bans on hand-held devices; however, several states have prohibited the use of hand-held devices in certain areas, such as designated school zones. Only Georgia and West Virginia have banned hand-held devices for all drivers.

Penalties vary widely across the region. Most states have implemented a tiered system whereby drivers face increasingly severe penalties for each subsequent offense. Eight states have fees that do not surpass $100 per violation, while another five states have fees that range between $100 and $300. Two states, Arkansas and Louisiana, permit fees up to $500 and $1,000, respectively, for repeat offenders.

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SLC Regional Resource | May 8, 2018

Opioids and Organ Donations: A Tale of Two Crises

Nick Bowman, Research and Publications Associate

Download the full report (PDF)

At least 42,249 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016, a 28 percent increase from 2015, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioids now kill more Americans each year than guns, breast cancer or automobile accidents and have contributed to the shortening of the average U.S. life expectancy for two consecutive years. The last recorded decrease in U.S. life expectancy was in 1993, due to the AIDS epidemic. The last time life expectancy decreased in two consecutive years was in 1962 and 1963 due to an influenza outbreak.

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More SLC Research into Public Safety


Policy Analysis | June 22, 2017

Bail and Pretrial Reforms in Southern States

SLC Regional Resource | April 1, 2017

Body-Worn Cameras: Laws and Policies in the South

Policy Analysis | March 30, 2017

Human Trafficking

Policy Analysis | June 14, 2016

Pardons in SLC Member States

Webinar | June 2, 2016

SLC States and REAL ID Requirements

Policy Analysis | July 1, 2010

What are the firearms laws in the SLC states?

SLC Special Series Report | June 1, 2008

Innovative Programs in Funding State Homeland Security Needs

SLC Regional Resource | February 1, 2000

The Proposed Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision