Congress passes ‘minibus’ spending bill with continuing resolution: On Thursday, Nov. 17, Congress passed a “minibus” spending bill that also included a continuing resolution to keep our government open for business through Dec. 16. HR 2112, the Fiscal Year 2012 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, is called a “minibus” bill because it provides appropriations for several government departments — Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and related agencies, plus it was amended to include the Commerce/Justice/Science, Transportation/Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bills — but it is not an omnibus bill that funds the whole government. The bill passed the House by a 298-121 vote on Thursday morning, then passed the Senate 70-30 on Thursday night. HR 2112 was expected to be signed by President Obama on Friday, before the previous continuing resolution expires at midnight.
Kasaan clinic groundbreaking: Ground has broken on a new Kasaan Health Center. This is a project that started in the spring of 2008, when the Denali Commission designated the Organized Village of Kasaan (OVK) as its tribal partner to develop a statewide prototype clinic for our smallest Alaska villages.
Kasaan desperately needs a new clinic to meet the community’s health needs. The current clinic consists of two small rooms. One room serves as the lobby/waiting room/reception area/provider’s office and the other serves as a sub-standard exam room for procedures, trauma and lab. The current clinic shares space in the Kasaan community hall and our patients have to walk through the community hall for each visit.
OVK worked with McCool, Carlson, Green Architects for 18 months to design a clinic prototype that addressed several key issues — it can be built anywhere in the state, be energy efficient and use available alternative energy resources, and it had to feature other creative cost-containment options for remote sites. Three prototype plans were developed and the Denali Commission selected Kasaan as the first community to build the prototype clinics. The City of Kasaan donated land for the project. The community selected one of the three plans and the design was fit to match the site.
The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) is serving as the building contractor for the clinic, and ANTHC is hiring local workers for the project. According to the Denali Commission website, the total budget for the project is $1.043 million, with $812,737 funded by the Denali Commission, $175,000 provided by SEARHC, $30,000 from City of Kasaan for the land, and $26,063 from OVK for site clearing and earthwork. Jonathan Wunrow, who wrote the grant for the project, said the estimated construction cost is $763,000, including contingencies and escalation. The remaining funds cover medical equipment, clinic furnishings and other costs.
When the new clinic is complete, it will be operated by SEARHC and staffed by a community health aide/practitioner with weekly itinerant services by a mid-level provider. Dental teams will itinerate from the Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock. This prototype, with OVK and the Denali Commission in the lead, was presented to the 2011 National Rural Health Association’s national conference in Austin, Texas; and it will be presented again at the Alaska Health Summit in January 2012 in Anchorage.
Forum honors SEARHC’s Jay Dick: Harold “Jay” Dick of Hoonah received the Rookie of the Year Award, one of five awards presented during the Third Annual Alaska Behavioral Health Aide Forum on Nov. 8 in Anchorage. Jay was the first CFSW (community family service worker) hired at the SEARHC Hoonah Health Center in March. He significantly increased behavioral health services in Hoonah by starting a youth group and developing an adult sober support group. The Rookie of the Year Award honors a BHA/P (behavioral health aide/practitioner) employed for less than one year who demonstrates excellence in his/her role of delivering exceptional client care, improves the behavioral health care delivery in the community and demonstrates balance between work and personal life. Other SEARHC employees to be nominated for awards were Toni Weber of Juneau, Justin McDonald of Juneau, Anna Trudeau of Klawock, and Merry Armin of Petersburg.
Claire Reilly joins Community Health Aide Training Center staff: Claire Reilly, PA-C, joined the instructional staff at the SEARHC Community Health Aide Training Center (CHATC) in Sitka. Claire recently served as a physician assistant in the U.S. Army. She will provide intermittent physician assistant services at S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in addition to her teaching duties at the CHATC. Claire earned a Bachelor of Science degree in molecular biology and physician assistant medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, and she earned her Master of Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Nebraska. Claire previously worked with SEARHC five years ago, when she was an EMT-3/flight medic for the SEARHC Air Medical Services after serving in the U.S. Coast Guard.
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, Pamela Goodwin, who serves SEARHC and KANA patients receiving care at the Alaska Native Medical Center. Patients living in Sitka, Angoon, Kake, Pelican, Tenakee Springs, Yakutat, Petersburg and Wrangell can contact Bryan Whitson at 966-8860. Patients in Juneau, Haines, Skagway, Klukwan and Hoonah can contact Ashley Hunt at 463-6656. Patients in Klawock, Craig, Hydaburg, Kasaan, Thorne Bay and other POW communities can contact Cyndi Reeves at 755-4983 (965-0040, cell). Patients traveling to Anchorage for care can contact Pamela Goodwin at 729-3992 (942-5867, cell).
24/7 on-call travel coordinators: Are you a SEARHC patient who needs after-hours help while traveling for a medical appointment? SEARHC now has a 24/7 on-call travel number. A staff person is on call to help you when your flight has been diverted due to weather or you need late-night help with housing. For assistance, call 1-800-916-8566 (toll-free in Alaska) or 1-907-966-8345 in Sitka and follow the prompts for assistance. To help us better help you, please call as soon as you can get to a phone after you know your flight has been changed.
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 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.