President’s Update for April 2, 2011

In this edition...

In this edition … Patient advocate hired in Anchorage: Former SEARHC employee Alicia Soto was hired by the Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) for a patient advocate position that KANA and SEARHC will share at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. Alicia will serve as the customer service liaison for any KANA and SEARHC patients treated at the Alaska Native Medical Center. She starts work on Monday, April 4, and she will work within the ANMC Customer Service division under the supervision of KANA. Alicia previously worked for SEARHC with the human resources and outpatient departments, so she knows our system. In addition to Alicia, SEARHC has three other patient advocates — Bryan Whitson (Sitka), Ashley Hunt (Juneau) and Cyndi Reeves (Prince of Wales Island). The goal of the patient advocates is to ensure that every patient receives the highest quality of health care and that they are satisfied with the services they receive. Back to top Trends in the Alaska health insurance market: We heard some sad news this week on the private insurance market. The University of Alaska recently made some big changes to its policy because its insurance costs were expected to more than double in seven years from the current $65 million price tag. The changes, most of which take effect in July, include higher employee deductibles (going up from $500 to $1,250 on the cheapest plan and from $100 to $500 on the most expensive plan), an added $50 per month fee for tobacco users (which will not take effect until 2012), and an emphasis on generic drugs. These changes are expected to save about $8 million. The university also did a “dependent audit” to weed out ineligible dependents. At this time, employee contributions to the plan are not expected to rise. The university currently pays 83 percent of health insurance costs, with employees paying 17 percent. We have been lucky at SEARHC that we’ve been able to hold the line on our employee health insurance costs, with no increases in the past three years. We begin negotiating our new year employee plans late spring and summer. Back to top Radiation worries from the Japanese nuclear plant: Many Alaskans are worried about radiation from the damaged nuclear plant in Japan reaching Alaska and impacting our health and food supplies. SEARHC and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium staff is in contact with state and federal health officials, and we are monitoring the situation closely. There are five radiation monitors in Alaska, including one in Juneau, and so far there have been only trace amounts of radiation from the plant to reach the state, not enough to cause any health problems. At this time there is no need for people to take potassium iodide pills, which can cause severe side effects if used improperly. For more information about the nuclear plant and radiation reaching Alaska, ANTHC created a website with updates, http://www.anthc.org/chs/ces/emergmgt/index.cfm. The State of Alaska also has a website, http://www.hss.state.ak.us/prepared/radiological.htm. Back to top Front Street Clinic update: State Sen. Dennis Egan (D-Juneau), State Rep. Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau), State Rep. Cathy Muñoz (R-Juneau) and staff members for U.S. Rep. Don Young and U.S. Sen. Mark Begich took a tour of Front Street Clinic on Wednesday, March 30. The current facility has become inadequate to provide the services we offer to Juneau’s homeless community, and the state legislators toured the clinic to learn more about our needs for a bigger facility. We have been looking at other clinic space in the downtown Juneau area, where our homeless patients still can easily access services, and we have a couple of good leads. We are hoping the legislators can include some funds from the state budget to help us with the move and remodeling needed for a larger clinic. A special Haw’aa to our President Emeritus, Ethel Lund, for welcoming our guests to the clinic. Back to top Nolan the Colon tour update: The first stop on the Nolan the Colon tour was successful. The inflatable super colon used to promote colorectal cancer awareness spent three days at the Nugget Mall in Juneau on March 24-26, and about 175 visitors took the tour. KTOO-FM radio also interviewed SEARHC Colorectal Cancer Screening Program staff for a story that was aired on April 4 (and also aired April 5 on KCAW-Raven Radio in Sitka). We collected 108 pre- and post-tour surveys for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, which is conducting a separate evaluation project to assess the success of Nolan’s outreach program. Our Colorectal Cancer Screening Program also collected 25 pre-enrollment questionnaires from SEARHC-eligible patients, who will be contacted right away by our patient navigator to make referral appointments for screening. Nolan the Colon made the second stop on its tour on Saturday, April 2, at the Wrangell Health Fair (held at the Nolan Center in Wrangell). The next stops are the Haines Health Fair on April 23, at Prince of Wales for events TBA on May 2-5, and at a health fair for tribal citizens in Sitka on May 7. To learn more about colorectal cancer, contact your local SEARHC medical provider or contact the SEARHC Colorectal Cancer Screening Program at 966-8541. Back to top Denali Commission listening session: On Friday, April 1, the Denali Commission held a Southeast Alaska listening session in Juneau. Commissioners were present to receive feedback from the region on strategies to make the commission more effective in over the next decade. SEARHC provided testimony on the facilities and communities that received support, the need to support additional rural health facilities projects, and increased tribal representation on the commission. Back to top Board committees meet: On Wednesday, March 30, the Audit and Budget committee met in Juneau. The committee received the 2010 financial audit report from Elgee, Rehfeld, and Mertz, the January 2011 financial report, and the February 2011 preliminary financial report. On Friday, April 1, the Planning committee met by video and teleconference. The planning committee heard updates on facilities projects, service indicators, FY 2011 board objectives, and the strategic planning process. Back to top Choose Respect marches: On Thursday, March 31, more than 60 communities around Alaska held domestic violence and sexual assault prevention awareness marches as part of the Choose Respect campaign created by Gov. Sean Parnell. SEARHC staff participated in the marches in Sitka and Kake, and SEARHC employee Jackie Mazeikas organized the march in Haines. Back to top ASIST training in Haines: SEARHC employees ReGina Rioux and Lenora Walker will lead an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training on April 5-6 in Haines. This training will be for 19 high school youth ages 16-18 and is being held in conjunction with Haines High School and the Haines Presbyterian Church. This is one of several suicide prevention and intervention trainings the SEARHC Behavioral Health Division has been leading in communities throughout Southeast Alaska. Back to top Just a Reminder … SEARHC encourages prevention during flu season: As the flu season is in full swing, SEARHC wants to remind its patients there are several ways to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory illnesses. Following these healthy habits can help protect you and your family from getting the flu, colds and other diseases — get vaccinated, cover your cough, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home if you are sick and practice good health habits. Please note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now lists Alaska Natives and American Indians with the flu vaccine priority group for those people at high risk for flu-related complications due to high rates of complications during last year’s flu outbreak. Updated information on the seasonal flu, including more ways people can prevent flu’s spread, can be found online at http://www.pandemicflu.alaska.gov/ (state site) or at http://www.flu.gov/ (national site). SEARHC also has flu information at http://www.searhc.org/flu/. Back to top 24/7 on-call travel coordinators: Are you a SEARHC patient who needs after-hours help while traveling for a medical appointment? SEARHC now has a 24/7 on-call travel number. A staff person is on call to help you when your flight has been diverted due to weather or you need late-night help with housing. For assistance, call 1-800-916-8566 (toll-free in Alaska) or 1-907-966-8345 in Sitka and follow the prompts for assistance. To help us better help you, please call as soon as you can get to a phone after you know your flight has been changed. Back to top SEARHC hosts 24/7 crisis help line, toll-free at 1-877-294-0074: A personal or family crisis doesn’t always happen during clinic hours, so the SEARHC Behavioral Health Division has contracted with a crisis call center to provide help for Southeast Alaska residents when they need it most. The SEARHC Help Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it will be staffed with a team of master’s-degree-level mental health therapists who will listen and provide effective, compassionate care. This line provides confidential telephone counseling for people during a time of mental health crisis, and it is not just an answering service. The counselors will assess the situation and provide appropriate intervention using protocols developed with SEARHC Behavioral Health. Follow-up calls from SEARHC Behavioral Health or our partner agencies will be made the next business day. For more information, contact SEARHC Behavioral Health Prevention Program Director Wilbur Brown at 966-8753. Back to top Regards, Roald