U.S. Supreme Court affirms constitutionality of Affordable Care Act: We had good news on Thursday, June 28, when the U.S. Supreme Court announced in a 5-4 decision that the individual mandate of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was constitutional, as was nearly all of the act. This is good news for tribal health care, because the Affordable Care Act included a permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which increased funding for tribal health care and updated our health priorities. The Affordable Care Act also included an expansion of the Community Health Center program, which is especially critical in rural Alaska because in many communities these health centers are the only health care options available and this program improves access to care (SEARHC operates Community Health Centers in a dozen communities). The Affordable Care Act also made health care available to about 30 million people who didn’t have access to care, it allowed parents to insure their children up to age 26 on their regular family policies, it improved preventive care, expanded behavioral health care options, and more. The decision confirms the legality of the law, although it might be changed in the future through political means.
SEARHC has new board chairman, and two new board members: The SEARHC Board of Directors met June 20-22 in Juneau, and as part of its meeting the board elected a new chairman, Frederick Olsen Jr. of the Organized Village of Kasaan. Fred replaces Jolene Edenshaw as board chair. The board also inducted two new members — Mary Grant of the Hydaburg Cooperative Association and James Jack Sr. of the Tlingít and Haida Indian Tribes of the City and Borough of Juneau.
S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital CNAs honored June 25-27: The S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital nursing staff honored its certified nursing assistants (CNAs) on Monday through Wednesday, June 25-27. CNAs play a vital role in patients’ lives, and SEARHC recognizes that CNAs provide predictability and stability to care, and they are an instrumental part in a patient’s visit (inpatient or outpatient). CNAs are at the heart of care. During the three-day celebration, the nursing staff hosted a lunch, breakfast, an under the sea adventure, and an awards ceremony with cake and ice cream. Five CNAs were honored as the hospital’s 2011-12 CNAs of the year — Jana Harshey of the emergency room/critical care services, Sandra Bergey of acute medical services, Byron Hunt of outpatient/urgent care, Maria Howard of perioperative services/surgery, and Elisa Larson of obstetrics surgical services.
SEARHC helps with Kake Bike Rodeo: The Kake Bike Rodeo took place on Saturday, June 22, with 24 kids and 15 adults participating in the bike safety event. The event was organized by RAVEN AmeriCorps volunteer Bess Skeek, with help from Edna Jackson and Teresa Gaudette of the Organized Village of Kake, and Georgie Davis-Gastelum of SEARHC Health Promotion. The SEARHC Injury Prevention program sold bike helmets at a discount, which were made available to all the kids who needed them. Georgie helped with helmet fittings and the SEARHC community-directed diabetes grant helped fund the event. The event provided bike safety education for Kake kids, with bike safety checks, helmet fittings, an obstacle course and more.
Bartlett Regional Hospital hires new CEO: Bartlett Regional Hospital has hired Christine Harff as its new CEO. Christine will start her new job in mid-August, after she moves to Juneau from Thief River Falls, Minn., where she has been CEO of Sanford Medical Center. She is a former trauma nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and later the chief operations officer and quality resource director at Monticello-Big Lake Community Hospital in Monticello, Minn. Christine has a nursing degree and an MBA, both from the University of Minnesota. She also holds a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn. She was one of three finalists in Bartlett’s CEO search, although the other two candidates later withdrew their applications. Bartlett is one of our major partners in Juneau — with our physicians holding privileges at the hospital and our organizations sharing a variety of programs — so we look forward to continuing this relationship.
ANTHC posts new online database tracking domestic violence on Alaska Natives: The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) has posted a new online database tracking cases of domestic and sexual violence involving Alaska Natives. The database is called “Healthy Native Families: Preventing Violence At All Ages,” and it can be found at http://www.anthctoday.org/epicenter/alaskanativefamilies.html. According to ANTHC, “This bulletin is the first time that data on domestic and sexual violence affecting Alaska Native people of all ages is brought together in one place. Beginning with pregnancy, this bulletin takes us through the major stages of life, sharing the consequences of violence, how many people are affected, and Alaska-specific responses.” Some of the key findings include Alaska Native children at age 3 are eight times more likely than other children the same age to have witnessed violence or abuse, the majority of confirmed child abuse cases in 2009 involved Alaska Natives even though Natives are just 15 percent of the population (2,070 of 3,945 cases), and one in three Alaska Native adults reported they saw their parents or guardians hurting each other when they were children. The online database will hopefully help us find a way to break this cycle of domestic and sexual violence.
Wrangell to plant community fruit tree orchard on Saturday: Wrangell residents will meet at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 30, at the Evergreen Elementary School on Bennett Street to start planting the community fruit tree orchard it won in an online contest last year. Wrangell community members will be working with the Pennsylvania-based Fruit Tree Planting Foundation to plant 28 fruit trees and several berry bushes. Last year, the Wrangell project won enough votes in the Dreyer’s Fruit Bars “Communities Take Root” program, against similar projects throughout the country, to earn an orchard. The Wrangell project was spearheaded by the Healthy Wrangell Coalition and Wrangell Medical Center, with help from other community programs including SEARHC.
SEARHC patient advocates serve as customer liaisons: SEARHC has three patient advocate positions in Southeast Alaska — Bryan Whitson (Sitka), Cyndi Reeves (POW), and our Juneau position is temporarily vacant — 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). Since our Juneau position is vacant, patients in Juneau, Haines, Skagway, Klukwan and Hoonah should contact Cyndi until we can hire a new Juneau patient advocate (use Cyndi’s numbers above or the Juneau patient advocate’s number of 463-6656, which will be routed to Cyndi). 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