Federal budget status: As of this report, Congress adopted a short-term spending bill until Oct. 4 (first four days of the fiscal year). Without a final approved appropriation for Indian Health Services, we can anticipate a similar year to federal fiscal year (FFY) 2011 with tight cash flows due to continuing resolutions. The Senate adopted a continuing resolution through Oct. 4 and another through the middle of November. The House of Representatives approved the continuing resolution through Oct. 4, but will not address a longer resolution until it reconvenes next week. It is possible that Congress may consider an omnibus spending bill for all of FFY2012. Our best hope appears to be an omnibus spending bill for mid November.
Board attends NIHB Consumer Conference: Members of the SEARHC Board of Directors attended the National Indian Health Service Consumer Conference held in Anchorage on Sept. 26-28. The annual conference moves around the country and this year was its 28th meeting. The National Indian Health Board advocates on behalf of all tribal governments and American Indian/Alaska Native people in their efforts to provide quality health care. Topics included Medicare/Medicaid and tribal health; youth health including suicide prevention and childhood obesity prevention; diabetes, special diabetes program for Indians; health care reform implementation; behavioral health; health information technology and electronic medical records; and public health issues — accreditation, tribal programs that increase health promotion/disease prevention, preparedness, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) winnable battles.
The National Indian Health Board recognized Morgan Fawcett, an accomplished Tlingít flute player, with one of its highest awards. The 19-year old Fawcett, who was born in Juneau, works to raise awareness for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). He honored the entire luncheon with his music.
The SEARHC Diabetes Program staff received a John Pipe Voices For Change award for their work in diabetes treatment and prevention from the American Diabetes Association. We were proud to receive this award on behalf of over 50 staff members across every division of SEARHC. Our diabetes treatment and prevention staff includes physicians, nurses, pharmacists, health promotion, physical therapists, optometrists, dietitians, and many more dedicated individuals.
SEARHC staff presented on the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Project and the Frontier Extended Stay Clinic (FESC). We co-presented this session with the State Department of Health and Social Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The presentation covered the benefits of both demonstrations from building capacity to maintaining critical community services.
CMS Chief of Staff visits Sitka: On Thursday, Sept. 29, representatives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) visited our Sitka campus. Ms. Caya Lewis, Chief of Staff, and the Tribal Affairs Group visited our S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, our student health center at the Mt. Edgecumbe High School, and the behavioral health services on the Sitka campus. We spent time explaining our participation in the Rural Hospital demonstration project and our work with two of the five Frontier Extended Stay Clinics in the demonstration project. As Chief of Staff, we hope that Ms. Lewis will be able to return with additional education on how these important projects affect the health of our region. Ms. Lewis is an adviser to CMS Administrator, Dr. Don Berwick, as well as other Department of Health and Human Services agencies and executives. We are honored by her visit.
Medicaid reconciliation payments: The State of Alaska Medicaid staff is delayed in reconciling our dental and behavioral health claims from past years. The state makes this reconciliation between the fee schedule and our all-inclusive rate several months following the date of service. During the Alaska Native Health Board and Alaska Tribal Health Directors meeting in September, we requested a partial payment of these funds with full reconciliation in the next several months. The state made available a similar process for 2009 behavioral health encounters in June 2011. Commissioner Bill Streur agreed to a partial payment of 85 percent for the 2010 dental claims by Oct. 7, with the remainder to be reconciled. The state has experienced delays in this process due to staffing for the reconciliation. The staff presented a timeframe to bring back payments current by Spring 2012.
SEARHC receives Community Transformation grant through CDC: This week, SEARHC heard it will be receiving $499,588 per year for five years as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Community Transformation grant program. The SEARHC Community Transformation Through Traditional Knowledge grant will be used to “expand efforts in tobacco-free living, active living and healthy eating, and quality clinical and other preventive services” in our 18 Southeast Alaska communities. Through this grant, sub-grants will be awarded to local community projects that have measurable outcomes, such as increased minutes of physical activity per day or increased servings of fruits and vegetables. Grants may include traditional knowledge elements, such as traditional foods, carving, weaving, Tlingít/Haida language, canoeing, etc. The target population for this grant is the 72,000 residents of Southeast Alaska, including 11,700 Alaska Native and 60,300 non-Native residents.
SEARHC Behavioral Health hosts CARF survey visit: On Sept. 26-28, the SEARHC Behavioral Health Division participated in a full behavioral health survey by the Commission on Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). CARF surveyors visited the Juneau Behavioral Health Clinic, the Sitka campus (Haa Toowóo Náakw Hít outpatient clinic and our substance abuse treatment programs) and Prince of Wales. We expect to have the final survey report in the next 4-6 weeks. The surveyors mentioned that they are very impressed with SEARHC as an organization, and the valuable input and connection we have with the people we serve. SEARHC Behavioral Health facilities and programs have been receiving regular accreditation from CARF in three-year cycles since 1993. As a consumer, when the service or program is CARF-accredited, it means your provider has passed an in-depth review of its services. Accreditation is your assurance the provider meets rigorous CARF guidelines for service and quality — a qualified endorsement that your provider conforms to nationally and internationally recognized service standards and is focused on delivering the most favorable results to you.
Steven Forde, PA-C, joins ARMC staff: Steven M. Forde, PA-C, has joined the Alicia Roberts Medical Center staff as a physician assistant specializing in internal medicine. Steven completed his undergraduate and physician assistant education at the University of Florida School Of Medicine in Gainesville, Fla. He has 17 years experience in internal medicine, geriatric care and acute care in a hospital setting at Highlands Regional Medical Center in Sebring, Fla. He also was a medic in the U.S. Air Force. Steven is certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Physician Assistants, and received the NCCPA’s Gold Seal for being in its top 10 percent of applicants. His medical interests include acute, intensive care unit and cardiac care, and internal medicine. He also enjoys spending time with his family, baseball, hiking, hunting and fishing.
Haines luncheon highlights diabetes prevention and management: SEARHC hosted a luncheon and presentation about diabetes prevention and management on Friday, Sept. 16, in Haines. SEARHC Dietician Kari Natwick came up from Juneau to make a presentation and share recipes. Diabetes case manager Lisa Schwartz organized the gathering in coordination with community wellness advocate Mandy Ramsey. The free meal, which was enjoyed by 27 attendees, demonstrated the \"My Plate\" dietary recommendations introduced by the USDA this summer. The new guidelines replace the food pyramid, and illustrate a well-balanced meal as divided into four segments on a plate — vegetables, fruit, grains and protein.
Anna Trudeau nominated for state award: Anna Trudeau, a community family service worker at the Alicia Roberts Medical Center, was nominated for this year’s Alaska Alliance for Direct Service Careers (AADSC) Outstanding Direct Service Professional of the Year Awards. Although there was significant competition and Anna was not selected, we are proud of her work and nomination for such an award. Each year, five direct service professionals are honored for their work in the following support areas — traumatic brain injuries, severe mental illness, Alzheimer’s disease and other related aging disorders, treatment for chronic alcoholism/substance abuse, and developmental disorders. The five winners are announced during the AADSC’s annual Full Lives Conference, and each winner receives $1,000 and a trip to the conference, which was this week in Bethel.
Jackie Maziekas hired as domestic violence health educator for Haines: SEARHC recently hired Jackie Maziekas as a part-time domestic violence prevention initiative health educator in Haines. Jackie previously worked for four years as an administrative assistant for the SEARHC Division of Behavioral Health in Haines and she is very familiar with the communities of Haines and Klukwan. Jackie completed the Rural Human Services Program through the University of Alaska Fairbanks and has six years of experience working with the homeless population. In her new grant-funded position, Jackie will promote communication between SEARHC and community-based advocates providing domestic violence/sexual assault (DV/SA) services in Haines. She will promote education, prevention and outreach efforts to increase awareness of DV/SA in Haines, Klukwan and Skagway. She also will work with SEARHC health providers in the rural clinics to provide documentation of assessment, intervention and referrals due to DV/SA for women age 13 and older.
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 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 Pamela Goodwin at 729-3992 (942-5867, cell).
SEARHC adds 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 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.