Senator Murkowski has introduced 4 bills to the U.S. Senate and they are being called the “Alaska Wellness Package.” Two of the bills address national issues with an acutely Alaska component: improved access to quality care for Medicare recipients and better diagnosis and care for those with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. The second pair of bills are more Alaska-specific: a three year extension for the cost-saving Medicare project being held at the four Frontier Extended Stay Clinics in rural Alaska, as well as a land transfer to allow the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to expand to better serve the Alaska Native community’s medical needs.
UAA has found a “major problem” in Anchorage and a “noticeable problem in the Mat-Su and Fairbanks” of primary care doctors turning away Medicare patients. This bill frees doctors and patients from red tape by allowing patients to negotiate directly with doctors for reimbursement agreements. There are three licensed physicians serving alongside Senator Murkowski in the U.S. Senate, and all three are co-sponsoring the bill.
Alaska has the highest rate of children born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in the nation. Senator Murkowski’s bill attempts to curb that statistic while assisting those with it. Her bill consists of 12 different directives, among them: direct the National Institute of Health to develop a research agenda for the most promising FASD research and diagnosis; develop partnerships of health professionals, school systems, Alaska Native or American Indian tribes and parent groups to integrate services – and support FASD adolescents as they become adults with transition assistance and education.
The Alaska Native Medical Center is presently over its capacity for treating and caring for its patients, with a parcel of land nearby that the Indian Health Service (I.H.S.) presently holds the full title to. Senator Murkowski’s bill would transfer that deed to the ANTHC in order for them to construct a new facility that could accommodate the overflow.
There are four clinics in Alaska (Prince of Wales, Haines, Glenallen and Unalaska) that are working through a pilot program within the Medicare system to provide care to patients located far from doctors accepting Medicare patients. The National Rural Health Association and the Rural Policy Research Institute Center for Rural Health found the program to be a “valuable service to remote or isolated communities” and that the program is saving Medicare money. Senator Murkowski’s bill extends this program – currently set to expire at the end of March – for an additional three years.
It’s time to quit putting cancer in your mouth. Join millions of Americans as they raise awareness on the dangers of smokeless tobacco during “Through with Chew Week” this February 17-23. Tobacco users are encouraged to quit with the support of their peers on Feb. 21, the official day to “quit.” The SouthEast Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) is proud to support this annual national event, and encourages people to take charge of their health by making better choices. Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in Alaska and the US. In Alaska, 5 percent of adults and 8 percent of high school youth use smokeless tobacco. Alaska Native adults use smokeless tobacco at higher rates, with usage rates averaging 15 percent for men and 9 percent for women. There are FREE resources available to help. If you are interested in quitting tobacco, call the SEARHC Tobacco Quit Program toll free at 1-888-966-8875. They offer free one on one quit support, educational services, and nicotine replacement therapy. Or you can call Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW to begin your quit journey today! Also visit www.alaskaquitline.com or www.facebook.com/alaskaquitline for more information.
On Friday, February 15 SEARHC clinics will be closed to observe Elizabeth Peratrovich Day that’s officially observed on Saturday, the 16th. We do this to honor the achievements of Alaska’s Native civil rights leader. Elizabeth Peratrovich Day is a special day for SEARHC’s Alaska Native patients and staff, and it is important that we honor her achievements. Our outpatient clinics will be closed on Friday, Feb. 15, but we will have on-call staff available to provide emergency care at those clinics that offer emergency services. We also will have regular staff working at S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital to take care of our patients who are hospitalized. We will reopen on Saturday, the 16th. It was Peratrovich’s impassioned testimony before the Alaska Territorial Legislature in 1945 that led to the passage of an Anti-Discrimination Bill eliminating the blatant discrimination policies faced by Alaska Natives. Until the bill passed, many Alaska businesses wouldn’t serve Natives and treated Natives as second-class citizens. In 1988, the Alaska Legislature established Feb. 16 as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, using the anniversary date of the bill’s signing in 1945. It is a day set aside so Alaskans can pause to remember the former Grand Camp President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood and honor her efforts to preserve equality and justice for all Alaskans regardless of race, creed and ethnic background. There are several functions throughout S.E. on Saturday that will be honoring her. Please refer to you local paper for the location and times of these events.
SEARHC has a new website and it’s been created to increase (with ease) the way you access information about SEARHC, its locations, services, providers and more. The way you search and apply for a job at SEARHC has also gotten a lot simpler, which will help to quicken the response time from SEARHC to the applicants. The site will continue to take shape in the months to come with the addition of publications like HealthBeat that will be written in the form of a blog. Links to outside sources like the CDC, other Tribal healthcare networks and health education websites will be added as the site grows. Please check it out at http://searhc.org.
If you haven't already done so, please check out SEARHC's new page on Facebook. This page will provide people with updates about what's happening around the consortium. This page is new, so it will be adding more content over time. If you're on Facebook, please like our page so you can keep up on the news at SEARHC.
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.
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 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).