President’s Update for Feb. 17, 2012

In this edition...

In this edition …

President Obama’s budget request has record IHS amount: When President Barack Obama released his 2013 budget on Monday, Feb. 13, he asked for $4.422 billion for the Indian Health Service, a slight increase from the $4.307 billion in the fiscal year 2012 budget. When funds for contract health services and construction for new hospitals, clinics and staff facilities is added to the 2013 budget request the IHS would receive $5.5 billion, which appears to be the highest ever budget amount requested for IHS, according to an article in Indian Country Today. “The budget includes $5.5 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS) to strengthen federal, tribal and urban programs that serve 2 million (American Indians and Alaska Natives) at over 650 facilities in 35 states,” the Office of Management and Budget wrote in its summary of the nation’s overall budget. While this figure may not be what amount IHS finally ends up receiving in the FY 2013 budget, it’s a good starting point since tribal health programs have traditionally been very underfunded in the federal budget compared to other health programs. The U.S. House and Senate each will submit their budget figures later this year, and we expect the budget to receive heavy debate as we head toward election season this fall. President Obama’s total budget is for $3.8 trillion.

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A visit to Haines and Klukwan: Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Ione and I had the opportunity to visit our Haines and Klukwan clinics this week to meet with staff. We also met with board members from those communities, as well as the Klukwan tribal health committee. I am looking forward to getting around the region over the next several months to meet with staff and board members, and to learn more about how each community receives health care.

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ANTHC holds regular board meeting: The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium hosted its regular board meeting this week, and Mike Zacharof of the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association was chosen to replace me as treasurer on the board. I had represented Southcentral Foundation on the ANTHC board, but now that I am with SEARHC I will be replaced as SCF’s representative and I will no longer be a member. In other ANTHC board business, the Illinois-based health care financial consulting firm Kaufman Hall made a presentation with recommendations for long-term financing options for facility expansion at ANTHC.

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Jeff Arndt joins Gunaanastí Bill Brady Healing Center/Déilee Hít Safe Harbor House staff: Please welcome Jeff Arndt, LPC, CDC II, who has joined counseling staff with the Gunaanastí Bill Brady Healing Center/Déilee Hít Safe Harbor House substance abuse treatment centers in Sitka. Jeff is a licensed professional counselor and chemical dependency counselor II. He holds a Master of Science degree in counseling psychology from Alaska Pacific University. Before moving to Sitka, Jeff served as a counselor and executive director for Alaska Human Services, an outpatient substance abuse program in Anchorage. Jeff also spent two decades as a wood turner and sculptor before entering the counseling field. He is an ultradistance runner, a gardener, and he plays classical and jazz flute.

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Be “Through With Chew” during the Great American Spit Out on Feb. 23: The week of Feb. 19-25 is “Through With Chew” Week, and Thursday, Feb. 23, is the Great American Spit Out. Please use these two related events as inspiration to quit using smokeless tobacco, if only for a day. There are many dangers in using smokeless tobacco, whether it’s loose-leaf chewing tobacco, chewing tobacco that comes from a tin, or one of those flavored pouches of smokeless tobacco now being marketed toward younger users. Smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco can be more habit-forming because it contains a higher concentration of nicotine than cigarettes. All of forms of smokeless tobacco can cause various types of cancer, heart disease, strokes, oral health problems (such as lesions on the mouth and gums) and nicotine addiction. In Alaska, 5 percent of adults and 8 percent of high school youth use smokeless tobacco. Alaska Native adults have even higher rates of smokeless tobacco use — 15 percent for men and 9 percent for women. If you need help quitting smokeless tobacco, please call the SEARHC Tobacco Quit Line at 1-888-966-8875, or call the Alaska Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or go to http://www.alaskaquitline.com/.

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Spring mobile mammogram van schedule announced: The SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program and Bartlett Regional Hospital have announced the Spring 2012 schedule for the mobile mammogram program. The mobile mammography van will visit Kake on May 1-4, Haines on May 9-22, Angoon on May 24-30, Skagway on June 4-7, Yakutat on June 13-18, and Gustavus on June 22 (no weekend 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 askwh@searhc.org. For more information about services available through the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program, go to http://www.searhc.org/womenshealth/.

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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).

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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 jessika.beam@searhc.org. 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.

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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.

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Charles Clement SEARHC President/CEO