President’s Update for March 5, 2011

In this edition...

In this edition … Congress passes another continuing resolution: On Wednesday, March 2, Congress passed and President Obama signed another continuing resolution for the FY2011 budget that will keep the federal government in business through March 18. FY2011 started on October 1st and there are only seven months left in the fiscal year. This continuing resolution featured $4 billion in cuts agreed on by the Democrat-led Senate and White House, but it did not include the full $60 billion in cuts the budget passed by the Republican-led House a couple of weeks ago. While this continuing resolution gives Congress more time to hash out the budget, the mutually agreed upon cuts were the easy choices in what has become a contentious stand-off over the federal budget. With the low-hanging fruit off the table, the choices become tougher and we still could face a government shut down if an agreement is not reached by March 18th. There are several cuts in the House budget that could impact some of our grant programs, mostly in Health Resource Service Administration (HRSA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA). The use of continuing resolutions also means the budget this year is being funded at FY2010 levels. Continuing resolutions cause cash-flow problems for many organizations that rely on federal funding because we receive partial payments several days after the period ends instead of our usual lump-sum payments at the start of the fiscal year. It also means that some new features from the Indian Health Care Improvement Act have not been funded based on last year’s budget. We will continue to follow this situation and we hope for a quick resolution. Back to top Mt. Edgecumbe High School Student Health Center hosts student wellness fair: The SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) Student Health Center is hosting the MEHS Health and Wellness Fair from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 12. Several programs from S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital and At Kaník Hít House of Information (Health Promotion and Community Health Care Services), as well as some community programs, will be available to provide the students with information about how they can be healthier and well. There also will be information booths where students can learn what they need to do to start a career in health care. Back to top Organized Village of Kake videoconference: We met with the Tribal Council of the Organized Village of Kake (OVK) by videoconference this week. Our planned in-person meeting was delayed due to our repeated high wind forecasts for the return trip. The Council members joined participants in the videoconference with points in Kake, Juneau, and Sitka. We provided an update on health operations at the Kake Health Center, S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, and the Alaska Native Medical Center. OVK members provided feedback on services and suggestions for improvements in health delivery. While not as effective as our in-person meetings, the videoconference provided an opportunity to meet with the Council. Back to top Sen. Begich discusses Alaska Native veterans needs with VA: Sen. Mark Begich met Tuesday, March 1, with Tammy Duckworth, Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs, and Stephanie Birdwell, Director of the Office of Tribal Government Relations at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In the meeting, Sen. Begich stressed the importance of the VA expanding its presence in remote Alaska and better addressing the needs of Alaska Native veterans. He also extended an invitation to both Assistant Secretary Duckworth and Director Birdwell to visit Alaska. Increased coordination between the VA, the IHS, and Tribal health services is an important part of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act reauthorization (part of the Affordable Care Act). SEARHC is partnering with the VA to register eligible veterans in Southeast Alaska. Cecilia Frank (364-4465) is coordinating VA enrollment for SEARHC patients in Juneau, Judy Mills (966-8307) is coordinating enrollment in Sitka, and Nellie Kookesh (966-8814) is coordinating enrollment for patients who live in our other SEARHC communities. Back to top ANTHC hires Michelle Anderson as new regional liaison: Michelle Anderson was hired by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) as a senior executive liaison. This newly created role will help ANTHC build relationships with tribal and regional health organizations while improving the customer service experience for ANTHC patients. She also will work on special projects, such as alternative energy and resource development fundraising for various projects. Michelle is Ahtna Athabascan and was raised in Glennallen. She has held leadership positions with several Native organizations, most recently serving as executive director for the Ahtna Heritage Foundation and she worked with the Denali Commission. She has Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from University of Alaska Anchorage and a Master of Arts degree in rural development from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She also received a “Top 40 Under 40” award from the Alaska Journal of Commerce in 2002. Back to top 2011 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). Students spend a week at S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka learning about different health careers and educational requirements. Health careers usually offer good pay and employee benefits, as well as the satisfaction of helping others. Also, the health field is growing, which means plenty of job opportunities for people with the right training. This year's VHOP session is scheduled for April 18-22, with travel dates being April 17 and 23. 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 Monday, March 21. Completed applications may be mailed to Romee McAdams at SEARHC, c/o Human Resources Department, 222 Tongass Drive, Sitka, AK 99835. Applications also can be faxed to 966-8404, or scanned and e-mailed to romee.mcadams@searhc.org. Because space is limited, interested students should apply early. Application packets are available at high school offices, at local village corporations, our Tribes or by going to http://www.searhc.org/vhop/. VHOP is sponsored by SEARHC and funded by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority through the Alaska Area Health Education Center at the Alaska Center for Rural Health. Back to top National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to learn about risks, screening: March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and everybody is encouraged to learn more about this disease. Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) ranks among the leading causes of death for Alaska Natives, and Natives are twice as likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer as non-Natives. But colorectal cancer is one of the easiest cancers to prevent with a healthy lifestyle and appropriate screening. Colorectal cancer usually is found in people age 50 or older, but younger people also can get it. The risk for colorectal cancer is higher for people who are obese or eat diets with a lot of red meat or processed foods. Heavy alcohol use, tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke also can increase the risk. The early stages of colorectal cancer have few symptoms, which makes screening more important. Precancerous polyps can be detected and removed during screening, before it becomes cancer. All adults age 50 or older should talk with their medical provider about screening, and so should younger adults who have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or bowel diseases. To learn more about colorectal cancer, contact your local SEARHC medical provider or contact the SEARHC Colorectal Cancer Screening Program at 966-8541. Back to top SEARHC encourages prevention during flu season: As the flu season hits full swing, SEARHC wants to remind its patients there are several ways to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory illnesses. Following these healthy habits can help protect you and your family from getting the flu, colds and other diseases — get vaccinated, cover your cough, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home if you are sick and practice good health habits. Please note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now lists Alaska Natives and American Indians with the flu vaccine priority group for those people at high risk for flu-related complications due to high rates of complications during last year’s flu outbreak. Updated information on the seasonal flu, including more ways people can prevent flu’s spread, can be found online at http://www.pandemicflu.alaska.gov/ (state site) or at http://www.flu.gov/ (national site). SEARHC also has flu information at http://www.searhc.org/flu/. Back to top 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 Prevention Program Director Wilbur Brown at 966-8753. Back to top Regards, Roald