President’s Update for Nov. 25, 2011

In this edition...

In this edition …

Automatic budget cuts triggered by failure of Super Committee: The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, known as the Super Committee, announced on Monday, Nov. 21, that it would not meet its Nov. 23 deadline to save at least $1.2 trillion. That means $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts, called sequestration, is supposed to be triggered in the fiscal year 2013-21 federal budgets, half in domestic programs and half in defense spending. This year, Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2012, the government is funded through Continuing Resolutions until Dec. 16. There has been talk about Congress possibly rescinding or revising some of the budget cuts, so right now we are watching to see what will actually happen. Some health care programs, such as veteran health benefits and Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor, will not be affected by the automatic cuts. But other health programs will see a variety of reductions. Medicare will be cut by up to 2 percent, all from payments to hospitals and health care providers. The Indian Health Service and health centers will be cut 2 percent in FY 2013 budget as a discretionary health programs. Other non-exempt programs serving Native Americans and Alaska Natives, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, face a 9.3-percent cut. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the IHS/BIA cuts could total $109 billion spread evenly over nine years.

Since we receive about $50 million in IHS compact funds a year, that means we could lose $1 million per year under automatic budget cuts. A month ago, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawai’i), chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, asked the Super Committee to be mindful of the impact of these program cuts on American Indians and Alaska Natives, and he asked for an exemption to the cuts to the BIA and IHS. At this point an exemption as described appears unlikely. It also should be noted that the current Congress technically only has control over the FY 2012-13 budgets, so future cuts could be changed after the 2012 election. There will likely be changing information on this topic over the next few months.

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Do you know your numbers? Want to learn how to help yourself or someone you love manage the numbers of prediabetes/diabetes, while also reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke? November is American Diabetes Awareness Month, and according to the American Diabetes Association nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes and another 79 million are at risk for getting Type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association also estimates that about a third of the people who have diabetes, about 7 million, don’t even know they have the disease. If untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health issues with the heart, kidneys, eyes, teeth, nerves and even result in foot amputations. Getting to know your numbers — blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol — is the first step toward diagnosing and managing diabetes. Empower yourself with knowledge. The SEARHC Lifestyle Balance Program offers a series of classes for Alaska Native and Native American adults diagnosed with prediabetes or are at high risk for Type 2 diabetes, teaching the students lifestyle changes that can prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes. The SEARHC Diabetes Program offers support for people with diabetes, including medication, eye care, dental care, physical therapy, nutrition therapy, and pain management. To learn more, call the SEARHC Diabetes Program at 966-8739 or go to http://www.searhc.org/programs/diabetes_program.php.

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Ken Hoyt joins WISEFAMILIES program in Wrangell: The SEARHC WISEFAMILIES Through Customary and Traditional Living program recently hired Ken Hoyt to manage the program in Wrangell. The program teaches participants how to harvest and preserve traditional subsistence foods, plus it provides instruction on Tlingít language, story-telling and other traditional activities such as carving and weaving. Hoyt grew up in Bellingham, Wash., and he frequently visited family in Wrangell. He looks forward to being able to connect with his Tlingít culture. Hoyt is Eagle/Brown Bear, Tanta Kwáan Teikweidí, and he is a child of the Shaxt’ Kwáan Kiks.ádi. He is a member of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Shaxt’ Kwáan Dancers. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Native American studies from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. While he was in school, Hoyt participated in the Sealaska Summer Internship in Guadalajara, Mexico, and he served as coordinator for the Native Student Alliance at Evergreen State College.

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SEARHC, partners host child car seat fitting event in Juneau: SEARHC will join partners from the Alaska Injury Prevention Center and Safe Kids Alaska to offer a child car seat fitting event from 2-4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2, at Riverbend Elementary School (2901 Riverside Dr.) in Juneau. Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians will be available to help parents make sure their child passenger seats are the proper fit for their car and that they meet the child car seat requirements of state law. A limited number of child car seats will be available to those in need ($35 for car seats with harness and $10 for booster seats). Alaska state law requires all children up to age 8 who are shorter than 4 feet, 9 inches or weigh less than 65 pounds be properly secured in an approved booster seat or child seat. To learn more, contact Health Advocate Lorena Gray of the SEARHC Southeast Alaska Child Passenger Safety Program at 364-4456 or lorena.gray@searhc.org. To learn more about how properly fitted child car seats reduce the risk of injury, go to http://www.carseatsak.org/.

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Telebehavioral health lecture series to feature Deb Evensen on FASD: The SEARHC Telebehavioral Health Program will feature a presentation, “In the Meantime … Intervention While Waiting for a FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) Diagnosis,” by education specialist Deb Evensen, M.A., from 1:30-3:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 28. Evensen is the director of FAS (fetal alcohol services) Alaska, based in Homer, and she also serves as director of the National Organization for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome-Alaska. The presentation is part of a regular lecture series hosted by the SEARHC Telebehavioral Health Program, which features presentations on the last Mondays of odd-numbered months. Other recent presentations in the series included vicarious traumatization by SEARHC psychologist Rand West in September and culturally sensitive counseling by SEARHC behavioral health clinician Bev Rivard in July. The presentations are available to SEARHC staff, which can attend the lecture live in the first-floor conference room of the SEARHC At Kaník Hít Community Health building or attend by videoconference from any of our remote sites. Other behavioral health specialists from around the state also participate, and continuing education credits are available for some presentations. To learn more about the lecture series, contact SEARHC Telebehavioral Health manager Dennis Pilgrim, PhD, at 966-8610. Edward Sugai at 966-8929 also can provide SEARHC employees with assistance. Tom Elmore (907-729-3910) of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Telebehavioral Health Program can help people connect to the series from outside the SEARHC system.

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Regards, Roald