President’s Update for March 23, 2012

In this edition...

In this edition …

SEARHC President/CEO attends IHS meetings in Anchorage: This week I spent a big portion of the week in Anchorage, Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, the Director of the Indian Health Service, will be hosting a listening session for tribal leaders. There also is a tribal shares work group and we will roll into our compact pre-negotiations. This is a very politically active time of year for tribal organizations and we were very active in trying to make sure SEARHC’s interests are represented in the best possible manner.

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Former SEARHC executive director and president Niles Cesar passes away: Longtime SEARHC executive director Niles Cesar, who briefly served as SEARHC president in 1989-90, has passed away. Niles, a Tlingít who grew up in Juneau, was hired as SEARHC executive director in 1979, shortly after he retired from the U.S. Navy. Niles worked closely with President Ethel Lund during SEARHC’s formative years from 1979-89, when we assumed management of the Juneau clinic and Mt. Edgecumbe Service Unit from the Indian Health Service. Niles became president when Ethel left SEARHC to become the director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Subsistence Division, and he served as president for nine months before leaving SEARHC to become Alaska Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Niles held the BIA job for 19 years, where he was a champion of tribal self-determination and subsistence rights. Niles also served on the boards of Sealaska and Goldbelt corporations, and was a council member on the Juneau Tlingít and Haida Community Council. Anchorage services will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, and Juneau services will be announced soon. Niles was 70 years old when he passed away on Saturday, March 17, after a long struggle with cancer.

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SEARHC physical therapist Alexei Desatoff earns U.S. Public Health Service award: Alexei Desatoff, who heads the physical therapy program at S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka, has been notified that he will be awarded the U.S. Public Health Service Therapist Junior Officer of the Year Award. The award honors a U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps junior officer who is selected by his or her peers across the country for “overall performance in the delivery of quality health care and outstanding contributions in the area of clinical health care/health care management. Alexei, who holds the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the USPHS Commissioned Corps, also won this national award in 2004. Alexei won his 2004 award as a clinical instructor for Doctor of Physical Therapy students, and he will be awarded the 2011 award for co-authoring and implementing a business plan (approved by the SEARHC Board) that brings significant upgrades and increased services to the hospital. An award presentation takes place at the Commissioned Officer Foundation Symposium this June at the University of Maryland. Alexei earned his physical therapy credentials after attending the University of Southern California.

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Matthew James joins medical staff at S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital: Physician assistant Matthew James has joined the medical staff at S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, where he will work in urgent care and the emergency room. Matthew earned his physician assistant credential through the University of Washington School of Medicine/MEDEX program in Seattle. Before joining SEARHC, Matthew spent a year with the Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center in Fairbanks and did two locums stints with the Pine Ridge Lakota Indian Health Service Hospital in Pine Ridge, S.D. Prior to going to school to become a physician assistant, Matthew was a paramedic with the New York City Fire Department (1995-2003) and a firefighter/paramedic with Sheridan Fire Rescue in Sheridan, Wyo. (2003-06).

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S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital to expand pharmacy hours: Beginning on Monday, April 2, the S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital outpatient pharmacy will stay open an extra hour during weekdays. The pharmacy now will be open for prescription pick-up until 6:30 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays. The pharmacy hours are 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, 8-8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Patients are reminded to submit refill requests five business days in advance of when you expect to need them for best service. For more information, contact 966-8347.

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SEARHC offers Alaska Gatekeeper suicide prevention training in Klawock: The SEARHC Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program will offer a one-day Alaska Gatekeeper suicide prevention training twice, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, March 30, and again on Saturday, March 31, at the Klawock-Heenya Mall No. 3. The Alaska Gatekeeper training helps people learn about the prevalence, myths and facts surrounding suicide; teaches people how to become good listeners and give concerned responses to a suicidal individual; teaches people how to feel comfortable and effective as gatekeepers who listen and assess; and develops a group of people who are comfortable interviewing with individuals who may engage in self-harm. People who complete the training learn the critical signs of someone thinking about suicide and how to react to them. For more information about this Alaska Gatekeeper class or to register, contact Tim Booth in Klawock at 755-2140, or contact the SEARHC Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention office in Sitka at 966-8933. The free 24-hour SEARHC Help Line, for people who are in a crisis, can be reached by calling toll-free 1-877-294-0074.

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SEARHC Health Promotion helps teach digital storytelling in Wrangell: The SEARHC Health Promotion Department partnered with Alaska Island Community Services (AICS) to provide a digital storytelling workshop last week to eight of their clinicians. The class was taught over four days (March 13-16), with students using both Mac and Windows OS computers. The students running a Windows OS used the Windows Movie Maker and Audacity programs and the students operating Mac OS used iMovie and Garageband to create up to three-minute movies. The stories covered a range of health topics — accepting life changes, emotional well-being, overcoming illness, nutrition, and physical activity. The students are excited to be able to create more stories and to teach their clients and other staff members. AICS Chief Executive Office, Mark Walker, attended the screening of the newly created digital stories.

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March 20 was National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: March 20 was National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, when we recognize the mounting impact of HIV/AIDS on American Indians (AIs), Alaska Natives (ANs) and Native Hawaiians (NHs). This sixth national observance is an opportunity for Native people across the United States to learn about HIV/AIDS, encourage HIV testing, and get involved in HIV prevention. This is our opportunity to collectively, and on a national scale, raise awareness of the risks of HIV to Native people, to help communities understand the dynamics contributing to those risks, and to encourage individuals to get tested for HIV. The CDC recommends that adults and adolescents get tested for HIV as least once as a routine part of medical care. People at increased risk should get an HIV test at least every year. Women should get an HIV test each time they are pregnant. The HIV epidemic is a serious health threat to Native communities. Although AIs and ANs represent 1 percent of the U.S. population, they have historically suffered high rates of health disparities, including HIV/AIDS. Overall, approximately 20 percent of HIV-infected Americans do not know they are infected, while among AIs and ANs this figure is closer to 25 percent. AIs and ANs diagnosed with HIV infection or AIDS die sooner after their diagnosis than members of any other ethnic or racial group, suggesting that they may be diagnosed late in the course of their infection. This underscores the importance of educating AIs and ANs on the facts about HIV prevention and increasing access to basic health care services. To find HIV testing near you, contact your local SEARHC clinic or go to http://www.hivtest.org/.

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American Diabetes Association Alert Day is March 27: American Diabetes Association Alert Day, the fourth Tuesday each March, is a one-day \"wake-up call” asking the American public to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. This year’s Alert Day is March 27. The Diabetes Risk Test asks users to answer simple questions about weight, age, family history and other potential risk factors for prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes. Preventive tips are provided for everyone who takes the test, including encouraging those at high risk to talk with their health care provider. Although Alert Day is a one-day event, the Diabetes Risk Test is available year-round at http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/prevention/diabetes-risk-test/. Knowing your risk for Type 2 diabetes is important because people who know their risk are more likely to have the power to stop the disease. Alaska Natives and American Indians have some of the highest rates of diabetes in the country, so it is important that all of us know our risk for the disease.

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SEARHC to celebrate seven years of tobacco-free campuses on April 1: On April 1, 2005, SEARHC became one of the first health care organizations in Alaska to go tobacco-free at all of its facilities throughout the region. This policy asked staff, patients and visitors to not use tobacco at SEARHC facilities or on the grounds surrounding SEARHC facilities. Tobacco use is a well-known cause for a number of health problems, including cancer, heart and lung disease, and more. As a leader in promoting healthy lifestyles, it was a natural decision for SEARHC to create a tobacco-free environment for our patients, visitors and employees at all of our health facilities. We have seen many positive changes across the region since this policy took effect, as several health facilities around Alaska followed our lead and declared their campuses tobacco-free. We also encouraged smokers to take advantage of our tobacco cessation services, and since April 1, 2005, we have served 2,152 clients, including 180 employees (since tracking of employees started in 2007).

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SEARHC EMS offers Wilderness First Responder course in Sitka: The SEARHC Emergency Medical Services program is offering an eight-day Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course April 10-19 in Sitka. The course takes place from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 10-13 and April 16-19 at the Southeast Region EMS (SEREMS) Building, 100 Clothilde Way (near the Halibut Point Marine Dock). This course had been closed, but several extra spots have become available for this class. The course fee is $450, which includes all materials. The registration deadline is Friday, April 6, and the minimum age for students is 18 years old (those age 16 or 17 may attend with parental permission). The WFR curriculum is geared for anybody who works or plays on land or at sea, and no prior experience is required to take the course. Many guiding and tourism companies require the WFR credential for employees who work in the field. To register or for more details, contact Eric Van Cise at 966-8769 or Mike Motti at 966-8771.

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SEARHC joins One People Canoe Society for a canoe journey to Celebration: The SEARHC Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program and other teams will join the One People Canoe Society for a canoe journey from various villages to Celebration this June in Juneau. The two canoes (one Eagle, one Raven) expect to arrive in Juneau on the morning of June 6. They will leave Kake on June 2 for a ceremonial start to the journey, which will help raise awareness about suicide prevention.. They will paddle to Angoon, then leave from Angoon on June 3 to paddle to Juneau. There possibly will be another boat from Hoonah joining the two canoes, and boats from other communities also may join in. There are a few openings for paddlers, and Alaska Natives are encouraged to join. For more information, contact Wilbur Brown of the SEARHC Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program at 966-8753. To learn more about the One People Canoe Society, contact Doug Chilton (who will captain one of the Angoon canoes) at 723-0030.

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National Indian Health Board celebrates two years of the Affordable Care Act: The National Indian Health Board honored the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act on Friday, March 23. The Affordable Care Act included several important changes for Indian Country, including the permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. There were several other improvements for tribal health programs, including a provision that tribally provided health insurance cannot be taxed by the federal government, insurance companies are banned from denying coverage to those who have preexisting conditions or place lifetime dollar limits on coverage for individuals, vital preventive care has been expanded by making it available without co-pays, and young adults up to age 26 are allowed to remain on their parents’ insurance plan (this last provision alone added coverage for 29,000 American Indian/Alaska Native young adults). In addition, tribal health programs this year became eligible to purchase health insurance from the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, a memorandum of agreement has been signed with the Departments of Veteran’s Affairs to reimburse tribal health facilities that provide services to Native veterans, the Indian Health Service and other tribal health providers now are able to provide long-term care services, and because of the Affordable Care Act consumers soon will be able to purchase affordable insurance through state-based insurance exchanges with special benefits for Native patients.

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Just a reminder …

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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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. Also, 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 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 ANMC patient advocates at 729-3990.

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SEARHC hosts summer internship program for Natives: Applications are available for the SEARHC Summer Internship Program, which provides work experience for Alaska Native/American Indian students pursuing careers in health care. The SEARHC Summer Internship Program provides opportunities for six Alaska Native/American Indian students who are studying at the high school, bachelor’s degree and/or master’s degree/clinical level. The program allows participants to explore career options in health care, and the interns receive valuable on-the-job training in their health care career of interest and an hourly stipend. At the end of the program, interns will receive a performance evaluation with valuable feedback from their mentor(s). The application deadline is Friday, May 11 (the application must be received or postmarked by this date), and the final selection of interns takes place on May 21. The internship program runs from June through September 2012. During the program, the interns will work a minimum of 30 hours and a maximum of 40 hours per week under the supervision of a manager at a SEARHC facility. Although an hourly stipend is provided, interns are responsible for their own housing and transportation during the internship program. SEARHC will not provide housing and/or transportation. Completed applications may be mailed to Jessika Beam (966-8903) at SEARHC, 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. Application packets and additional details are available at Southeast Alaska high school offices, through local tribal organizations or by going to http://searhc.org/students/college_interns.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