State issues advisory about pertussis (whooping cough): The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is recommending that Alaskans make sure they have a current pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination. This year, the whooping cough outbreak could become the worst in the United States in more than half a century, with Washington, Wisconsin and Minnesota having thousands of cases each this year. Alaska is running about double its normal rate (more than 40 cases reported this year compared to 24 last year, state epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin told KMXT-FM radio of Kodiak in mid-July), with the vast majority of cases in the Anchorage/Mat-Su valleys. Health officials believe one reason for the higher number of cases is because of waning vaccine protection, especially now that they use a different vaccine than a few years ago. Whooping cough starts out with cold-like symptoms such as a fever, runny nose and sneezing, and is accompanied by a mild cough that grows more severe by the first or second week. A high-pitched whoop, which gives the illness its name, can follow violent coughing fits, but not in all cases. In extreme cases, pertussis can cause death (usually among infants). While the number of cases in Alaska is low compared to other states, state health officials worry the number of cases in Alaska could grow since so many Alaskans travel through Washington. State and federal health officials recommend all children from age 2 months through 6 years old get the five-dose DTaP vaccine, which also protects against diphtheria and tetanus. The single-dose Tdap booster vaccine is recommended for adolescents age 11-18 (preferably those age 11-12) and adults ages 19-64, especially those who might have contact with children. To learn more about pertussis and how to prevent its spread, go to http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/index.html.
Sitka Health Summit community wellness champion award nominations being accepted: Do you have a friend or neighbor you think is a fine example of a healthy role model or wellness champion? The steering committee for the sixth annual Sitka Health Summit, “Working Together for a Healthier Sitka,” is accepting nominations for awards that will be presented during this year’s summit, which takes place Oct. 3-6 at various locations around Sitka. These awards are for Sitka residents who have made outstanding contributions or served as role models in one of six categories — physical activity, nutrition, safety/injury prevention, tobacco prevention/control, holistic health and general wellness. We will honor adults, youth, elders, policy makers, health care providers and Sitkans of all walks of life who make our community a healthier place to live. The awards will be presented during the Sitka Health Summit Awards celebration, which takes place on Wednesday night, Oct. 3, at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi. Each nomination should include a brief description of why this individual or group deserves an award, and it should provide us with contact information for both the nominator and the nominee. The awards are our way to recognize and thank Sitka’s unsung heroes of community wellness for their contributions to Sitka’s health. Penny Lehmann should receive nominations no later than Tuesday, Aug. 28. Please e-mail nominations to email@example.com, telephone them into Penny at 747-3255, or mail them to Penny Lehmann, Sitka Public Health Center, 210 Moller Dr., Sitka, AK 99835. SEARHC and Sitka Community Hospital are the founding sponsors of the Sitka Health Summit, http://www.sitkahealthsummit.com/.
Mary Louise Rasmuson passes away at 101: We are saddened to note the passing on Monday, July 30, of philanthropist Mary Louise Rasmuson, who started the Rasmuson Foundation with her husband Elmer, a former Anchorage mayor and banker. The Rasmuson Foundation has provided more than $200 million in grants to Alaska non-profit organizations over the past 45 years, for community development, health care, preserving Native culture and other projects. SEARHC has received several grants over the years from the Rasmuson Foundation — for clinic upgrades/construction in Klukwan, Juneau and Hoonah; our short-term housing complex in Sitka; consultant/training costs for our systems transformation project; security infrastructure improvements at several clinics; pain management treatment in Haines; and carbon monoxide monitors and fitness equipment to improve the heart health of women throughout the region. We join the Rasmuson Foundation and Rasmuson family in mourning Mary Louise’s passing.
Alaska VA Healthcare System hosts Veterans Stand Down in Juneau: SEARHC will be one of several agencies helping the Alaska VA Healthcare System host a Veterans Stand Down on Sept. 7-8 at Centennial Hall in Juneau. SEARHC will join Department of Veterans Affairs staff as they provide one-on-one assistance for veterans and their families with enrollment for health services, filing claims for compensation, and learning about benefits, pensions and burial benefits. The Veterans Stand Down takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 7, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8. In addition to providing benefits assistance, gear will be distributed to veterans who need it (jackets, socks, cold-weather bed rolls, sheets, towels, caps, mittens, blankets, sweats and more). In addition to the VA and SEARHC, other participating agencies include the U.S. Coast Guard, the Alaska Jobs Center, the State of Alaska, the Central Council of Tlingít and Haida Tribes of Alaska, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Southeast Native Veterans, the National Guard, tribal veteran representatives, the American Legion and the Disabled Veterans of America. To learn more about the Veterans Stand Down, contact VA Rural Health Program Coordinator Susan Yeager at 1-907-257-5460 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Libby Watanabe at SEARHC at 463-6680 or email@example.com. For more info about the Alaska VA Healthcare System, call 1-888-353-7574 or go to http://www.alaska.va.gov/.
SEARHC Behavioral Health offers ‘Living With Loss’ support group for elders: The SEARHC POW Behavioral Health program is offering a “Living With Loss” support group for elders in partnership with the Klawock Senior Center. This free support group is for seniors age 50-older who have suffered the recent loss of a spouse, child, parent or significant other. The group meets from 10-11:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 13, (and the second Monday of each month) at the Klawock Senior Center. This group is free and refreshments are available. Discussions include new realities, living with loss, day-by-day coping skills, and the emotional, spiritual and behavioral changes one experiences as the result of a loss. For more information, contact SEARHC Behavioral Health Clinician Kathleen Wescott, MA, at 755-4931.
SEARHC upgrades medical equipment: We have been able to scrape up $84,000 in one-time funds to start making a dent on the backlog of needed medical equipment replacement. We are replacing antiquated ECGs (electrocardiograms) in Sitka and Juneau, some 20-year-old defibrillators, as well as replacing an airplane litter that is on its last legs. While this isn’t a major expenditure compared to some of our recent building projects, it is a start when it comes to making sure our health professionals have current equipment to work with.
New women’s health benefits from Affordable Care Act take effect: On Wednesday, Aug. 1, eight new prevention-related health benefits for women took effect that were provided by the Affordable Care Act. These health benefits will allow 47 million women around the country (and 107,000 in Alaska) to get preventive care they need without having to pay more out of their own pocket. Previously, some insurance companies didn’t cover these benefits so women had to pay deductibles and co-pays, but now these services will be covered. Among the health services now covered are — well-women visits, gestational diabetes screening to protect pregnant women, domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling, FDA-approved contraceptive methods and education/counseling, breastfeeding support/education and supplies, HPV DNA testing for women age 30-older, sexually transmitted infections counseling for sexually active women, and HIV screening and counseling for sexually active women. Previously, services such as mammograms, flu shots and Pap tests were covered, so this expands the preventive care women can receive. To learn more about what preventive health care services are provided through the Affordable Care Act, go to http://www.healthcare.gov/prevention/.
Fall 2012 mobile mammogram van schedule announced: The SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program and Bartlett Regional Hospital have announced the Fall 2012 schedule for the mobile mammogram program. The mobile mammography van will visit Hoonah on Aug. 20-24, Haines on Aug. 27-Sept. 10, Skagway on Sept. 11-14, Klawock on Sept. 19-28 and Oct. 3-9, Craig on Oct. 1-2, and Metlakatla on Oct. 11-19 (no weekend or holiday appointments). Women are encouraged to contact their local clinics prior to the scheduled visit because they will need to receive a clinical breast exam before they can get their mammograms. The mobile mammography program is run through a partnership between Bartlett Regional Hospital and the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program. It makes regular mammography screening services available to women who live in communities where they aren’t available year round. The SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program provides free clinical breast exams, mammograms, Pap tests and cardiovascular screenings for all women ages 40 and older who meet income and insurance guidelines. For more information, contact your local clinic, call the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program in Sitka at 966-8782 (or 1-888-388-8782, toll-free in Alaska), or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about services available through the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program, go to http://www.searhc.org/womenshealth/.
SEARHC patient advocates serve as customer liaisons: SEARHC has three patient advocate positions in Southeast Alaska — Bryan Whitson (Sitka), Cyndi Reeves (POW), and Debra Graceland (Juneau) — who serve as customer service liaisons between patients and SEARHC, and help patients navigate their way through SEARHC’s health system. In addition, the Alaska Native Medical Center provides Anchorage-based patient advocates who serve patients from around the state receiving care at the Alaska Native Medical Center. Patients living in Sitka, Angoon, Kake, Pelican, Tenakee Springs, Yakutat, Petersburg and Wrangell should contact Bryan Whitson at 966-8860. Patients in Klawock, Craig, Hydaburg, Kasaan, Thorne Bay and other POW communities should contact Cyndi Reeves at 755-4983 (965-0040, cell). Patients in Juneau, Haines, Skagway, Klukwan and Hoonah should contact Debra Graceland (463-6656). Patients traveling to Anchorage for care should contact the ANMC patient advocates at 729-3990.
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/Suicide Prevention Program Manager Wilbur Brown at 966-8753.
SEARHC provides 24/7 on-call travel coordinators for patients traveling for care: SEARHC has a 24/7 on-call travel coordinator to assist patients needing after-hours help while traveling for a medical appointment. The on-call staff person helps patients find new connections when a plane is diverted by weather, or assists with late-night housing. For assistance, call 1-800-916-8566 (toll-free in Alaska) or 1-907-966-8345 in Sitka, and then follow the prompts. To help us better help you, please call as soon as you know your travel schedule has been changed. For patients needing assistance from the Community Resources Program (contract health), such as emergency health care while traveling, call 1-866-966-8316 (toll-free).
Charles Clement SEARHC President/CEO