An introduction: It is an honor and a blessing to be back in Southeast Alaska and to now be working with SEARHC. My name is Charles Clement, and Monday (Feb. 6) was my first official day as President/CEO of SEARHC. I grew up in Metlakatla, so I am familiar with the challenges we have providing high-quality health care in Southeast Alaska. I recently served as vice president of operations/chief operating officer at Southcentral Foundation, and I spent more than a decade in leadership roles with the Anchorage-based tribal health operation. I am looking forward to working with the board, employees and the customer/owners of SEARHC as we build on the successes of the past and tackle the challenges that are before us.
SEARHC clinics to close on Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, Tuesday, Feb. 16: All SEARHC clinics will be closed on Thursday, Feb. 16, to honor Elizabeth Peratrovich Day. This is a special day as we honor Alaska Native civil rights leader Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich, whose testimony before the Alaska Territorial Legislature in 1945 led to the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill that ended Jim Crow laws in Alaska. While our clinics will be closed to routine business, we still will have on-call staff to provide emergency services and our hospitalized patients at Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital will receive their usual care.
SEARHC joins other tribal health care organizations in Washington, D.C.: This week SEARHC Board Chair Jolene Edenshaw and General Counsel Ken Truitt joined other tribal health leaders in Washington, D.C. The meetings included representatives from Southcentral Foundation, Tanana Chiefs Conference, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the Nez Perce of Idaho and our legal team led by Lloyd Benton Miller. The group met to review legislative options to recovering contract support cost claims from prior years that had not been paid by the Indian Health Service. Our tribal organizations had been involved in a class action lawsuit over these claims, but the lawsuits have been separated and we are reviewing our options. In addition to meeting over the claims, the group also met with members of our respective Congressional delegations to see what options we have regarding this issue and whether it is best addressed through legislation or the courts. There are 13 tribal organizations (including SEARHC, SCF, TCC, Arctic Slope Native Association and Kodiak Area Native Association from Alaska) with outstanding claims, and about $25 million is in play. Tribal organizations have assumed management of several federal trust programs through the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act of 1975, but the IHS budget has not included the contract support cost funding needed to run the programs without reducing their services.
SEARHC mourns the death of former board member Dan Moreno Jr. in Sitka: The following is a statement from SEARHC Board Chair Jolene Edenshaw about the death of former SEARHC Board Member Dan Moreno Jr. on Thursday, Feb. 9 — “It is with great sorrow that we learned about the death early yesterday morning of Dan Moreno Jr., who represented Sitka Tribe of Alaska on the SEARHC Board of Directors from 1993-94. Dan’s Tlingít name was Kaa Taan, and he was a member of the Kaagwaantaan (Eagle/Wolf) moiety. Dan was of the Ch’aak’ Kudi Hít (Eagle Nest House) and was a grandchild of the L’uknax.adi (Coho Clan). He was a very active member of his clan and was very concerned with keeping the Tlingít culture strong. He was a longtime employee of Sitka Tribe of Alaska, serving as the TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Office) and Transportation Director. He also served many years on the board of commissioners for the Baranof Island Housing Authority (BIHA), and most recently was chairman of the board. Dan also served on the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Herring Committee and Marine Mammal Commission, as well as serving with the Roads and Transportation Department for the Central Council of the Tlingít and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. Through his work, Dan was a big friend to SEARHC and the Tlingít, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. We thank Dan for his years of service to our community and we send our condolences to the Moreno family.”
Dr. Russ Bowman named medical director for SEARHC Community Health Care Services: Dr. J. Russell “Russ” Bowman, DO, MHA, MS, CPE, has been named the medical director for SEARHC Community Health Care Services. Dr. Bowman has been serving as deputy medical director for CHCS and he will replace longtime medical director Dr. David Vastola, MD, who recently returned to S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital as a practicing pediatrician. Dr. Bowman, who holds the rank of Captain in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, joined the SEARHC staff in 2007 when he became the clinical medical director for the Haines Health Center. Previously, he spent six years as director of the Air Station Sitka medical clinic. Bowman also has extensive experience working in emergency medicine, having served as a flight surgeon for 18 years combined with both the U.S. Army National Guard in West Virginia (1989-96, active duty and reserves) and with the U.S. Coast Guard in Virginia and Alaska (1993-2007). Dr. Bowman earned a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from the University of Health Sciences in Kansas City, Mo. In August 2007, he earned a Master of Health Administration degree from the University of Washington (Seattle), and he received his certified physician executive (CPE) credential in December 2008. Bowman has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., and a Master of Science degree from the Marshall University Department of Family and Community Health in Huntington, W.V. He completed a residency in family medicine at Marshall University and a fellowship in emergency medicine at the Charleston Area Medical Center and West Virginia University (Charleston, W.V.). Bowman is board certified in family medicine by the American Board of Family Medicine and in emergency medicine by the American Association of Physician Specialists. He is a Fellow in the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Martha Pearson to head Community Transformation Grant: Martha Pearson, MPA, has been hired by SEARHC Health Promotion to manage the Community Transformation Grant recently received from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Until this hire, Martha had worked as the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program Coordinator. She will give up her current WISEWOMAN position, but she will continue to manage the SEARHC WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods programs in Klukwan, Kake and Wrangell, and she will continue to manage the SEARHC Healthy Wrangell program. The Community Transformation Grant is for just under $500,000 per year for five years, and it is one of 61 similar grants around the country. At SEARHC, the grant will be used to promote traditional and customary living activities that promote healthy eating, being active and avoiding tobacco use. The grant also will fund a regional health conference about disease prevention, and it will make sub-awards available to community projects that meet the goals of the main grant.
Health reform law saves Alaska residents on Medicare nearly $1.6 million: This week, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report showed 3.6 million Americans with Medicare saved $2.1 billion on their prescription drugs through the Affordable Care Act. In Alaska, 2,277 residents with Medicare saved $1.598,748, nearly $4,200 per person. The Affordable Care Act provides a 50-percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs this year and a 14-percent discount on generics. Last year, Medicare patients were able to save 7 percent on generics on prescription drugs that fell within the gap of the donut hole, and 2.9 million people saved $32.1 million on generics. The savings are expected to increase in the future as more parts of the Affordable Care Act are implemented.
SEARHC, Klawock Senior Center host Living Well Alaska chronic disease workshops: Do you or a loved one have a chronic disease, such as arthritis, diabetes or heart disease, and do you feel limited by it? Do you feel like you’re spending too much time with the doctor or at the hospital? The Living Well Alaska workshops will teach you how to self-manage your disease so you start to feel better. The SEARHC Diabetes and Health Promotion programs at the Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock, the Southeast Senior Services Klawock Senior Center and the State of Alaska Chronic Disease Self-Management Program are sponsoring a series of six free weekly Living Well Alaska workshops on Wednesdays for Prince of Wales Island residents. The Living Well Alaska workshops take place from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on six straight Wednesdays, March 7, 14, 21, 28, April 4 and 11, at the Klawock Senior Center, 465 Summit St. For more information about this series of free workshops, contact SEARHC Alicia Roberts Medical Center Diabetes Case Manager Julie Sturtevant, RN, at 755-4975 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Southeast Senior Services Klawock Senior Center Service Coordinator Beverlee Tyner at 755-2388 or email@example.com. Residents wanting more info about the Living Well Alaska workshops can go to http://www.hss.state.ak.us/dph/chronic/smp/to download a brochure.
Ketchikan Volunteer Hospice starting hospice program on Prince of Wales Island: Ketchikan Volunteer Hospice is beginning a program on Prince of Wales Island and will be recruiting for volunteers. This program is geared toward “companion” care for patients with terminal illnesses. A volunteer will go into the home for one or two hours per week and sit with the patient, talk with the patient, read to the patient, play games with the patient, take the patient on errands or run errands for the patient, and help with end-of-life issues. Sometimes the volunteer will just be there to provide a break so the family members can do things for themselves. The volunteers will not be doing any personal care for the patient (such as bathing, lifting, medications, etc.). The volunteers must be at least 19 years of age and they will receive 20 hours of training. This training currently is scheduled for March 22, 24 and 25 at the conference room in the Peace Health Clinic in Craig. POW health care providers or family members can refer patients to this program. There is no referral paperwork — just let Christine Palmer, RN, (firstname.lastname@example.org) know about the patient and his or her needs.
New transportation service for elders will connect Hydaburg with Klawock/Craig: A new transportation service for elders is being launched that will provide once-a-week trips from Hydaburg to Klawock/Craig. The new service is for elders age 60 and older, and it will allow elders to go shopping or attend appointments. The senior van from the Craig and Klawock senior centers will travel to Hydaburg on Wednesdays, usually for a 9 a.m. pick-up and 3 p.m. return. The van has room for eight passengers and donations will be accepted to help cover costs. Trips wlll be on a first-come, first-served basis. To learn more, contact Roberta Foss of the Catholic Social Services Klawock Senior Center at 755-2224, or contact SEARHC Hydaburg Elder Care Nurse Case Manager Jeri Rosenthal, RN, at 401-1755 (cell).
Veterans Administration benefits leaders visit Kake: This week Veterans Administration benefits leaders Jim Melton, Susan Yeager, Ric Epperson, Victoria Green and Irene Washington flew to Kake to meet with the Veterans Auxiliary of Kake, an organization founded by and presided over by Dinah Aceveda, a community family services worker (CFSW) with SEARHC Behavioral Health. The five VA leaders met with local veterans to explain the various benefits and how to qualify for them. They also helped veterans complete the paperwork. The Veterans Auxiliary of Kake hosted a potluck dinner for the VA officials, and the VA leaders presented the group a replacement U.S. flag for the pole at the Kake seaplane dock. With the 2010 opening of the new VA health clinic in Juneau and new rules allowing veterans living in remote communities to use local tribal health facilities with prior authorization, SEARHC has been working in partnership with the VA to improve services to veterans. We now have staff who are trained to help get you enrolled for Veterans Affairs health care services. These four employees are coordinating VA enrollment services at SEARHC — Juanita DeRose (364-4465) for SEARHC patients in Juneau, Judy Mills (966-8307) and Michael Lang (966-8488) for Sitka patients, and Nellie Kookesh (966-8814) for patients who live in our other SEARHC communities. Please contact your local SEARHC health care facility if you have any questions.
Just a reminder …
SEARHC patient advocates serve as customer liaisons: SEARHC has three patient advocates in Southeast Alaska — Bryan Whitson (Sitka), Ashley Hunt (Juneau) and Cyndi Reeves (POW) — who serve as customer service liaisons between patients and SEARHC, and help patients navigate their way through SEARHC’s health system. SEARHC and the Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) share an Anchorage-based patient advocate, who serves SEARHC and KANA patients receiving care at the Alaska Native Medical Center (the SEARHC/KANA position currently is under recruitment and patients can call the Alaska Native Medical Center Customer Experience Department at 729-3990 until it is filled). Patients living in Sitka, Angoon, Kake, Pelican, Tenakee Springs, Yakutat, Petersburg and Wrangell should contact Bryan Whitson at 966-8860. Patients in Juneau, Haines, Skagway, Klukwan and Hoonah should contact Ashley Hunt at 463-6656. Patients in Klawock, Craig, Hydaburg, Kasaan, Thorne Bay and other POW communities should contact Cyndi Reeves at 755-4983 (965-0040, cell). Patients traveling to Anchorage for care should contact the patient advocate at 729-3992 (942-5867, cell).
2012 Ethel Lund Village Health Occupations Program (VHOP) applications available: Each year, SEARHC selects several Southeast-area Native students interested in health careers for the Ethel Lund Village Health Occupations Program (VHOP), and the students spend a week at S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka learning about different health careers and educational requirements. The health field is growing, which means plenty of job opportunities for people with the right training. Health careers usually offer good pay and employee benefits, as well as the satisfaction of helping others. This year's VHOP session is scheduled for April 24-27, with travel dates being April 23 and 28. Students selected to participate in VHOP receive assistance to cover the travel costs to and from Sitka, housing, meals and some evening entertainment. The application deadline is Friday, March 23. Completed applications may be mailed to Jessika Beam, SEARHC Tribal Recruitment Coordinator, c/o Human Resources Department, 222 Tongass Drive, Sitka, AK 99835. Applications also can be faxed to 966-8527, or scanned and e-mailed to email@example.com. For more information, contact Jessika at 966-8903 in Sitka. Because space is limited, interested students should apply early. Application packets are available at high school offices, at local village corporations or by going to http://www.searhc.org/students/vhop.php.
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.
Charles Clement SEARHC President/CEO