President’s Update for March 20, 2010

In this edition...

Health Reform. The House of Representatives is poised to vote on the Senate version of Health Care Reform. Much is changing as negotiations in Washington continue today. Just yesterday the majority announced they would not use the deem and pass approach, but vote on the Senate bill outright. While there are many points of view on reform, we do know that the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act is in the bill to be considered (see October/ November/December reports for details of the IHCIA). National Indian Health Board's (NIHB) review of the Senate bill determined that an exemption for our Tribal members from penalties for mandatory insurance remains in the Senate version. This is important with the obligations of the government for Tribal Health. The bill also exempts a Tribal organization's purchase of health services from taxes. While we have not seen this in our region, there is clarification in the bill that our direct and contract health services are not taxable income. We look forward to sharing good news on the reauthorization of the IHCIA. 2010 U.S. Census starts counting: This past week most of us in Southeast Alaska received our 2010 U.S. Census forms in the mail. I want to remind everybody how important the census is for SEARHC and other tribal organizations. If you received a form, please fill it out and mail it back in by April 1. Census workers are expected to visit Southeast Alaska rural communities in April to try and get an accurate count of our people. We encourage everybody to participate in the census, and much of our federal and state funding is tied to formulas that use census population data. American Indians and Alaska Natives historically have the highest rates of undercounting, and not being counted can mean we lose funding for tribal health, social service, education, housing and other programs. This year’s census form is the shortest ever, but one new thing is being able to identify your tribal enrollment. For more information about how the census matters, go to http://www.searhc.org/2010census/. Hospital pharmacy renovation funded for chemical compounding: SEARHC will receive funding from the Indian Health Service (through the ANTHC's Maintenance and Improvement Resource Allocation Committee or MIRAC) to make air handling improvements so the Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital pharmacy can resume pharmaceutical compounding for hazardous medications such as those used in chemotherapy. For about a year, SEARHC has not been able to prepare and administer chemotherapy medications because our chemical compounding room did not meet the new regulations for air handling. We have selected a new location in the hospital for our pharmaceutical compounding and we will use the MIRAC funding to make all the necessary air handling improvements. Our design work is complete and we will accept competitive bids in mid-April. We anticipate the project will be completed by the end of the fiscal year in September. SEARHC awards contracts for construction projects in Hydaburg and Sitka: In recent weeks, SEARHC awarded four contracts for major construction projects starting this spring in Hydaburg and Sitka. The Hydaburg Health Center renovation project was awarded to McGraw's Custom Construction for $1.39 million. The Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital laundry facility dryer air handling unit project was awarded to Alaska Commercial Contractors of Juneau for $202,000. The Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital exterior envelope (siding, windows and roofing) replacement project was awarded to McGraw's Custom Construction for $2.93 million for the windows and siding part of the project and $563,000 for the roof. One of the biggest sources of funding for these projects was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the economic stimulus bill), which contributed $3.38 million in facilities funding through ANTHC for the Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital exterior envelope project and $446,000 from the Health Resources and Services Administrations capital improvement program for the Hydaburg clinic renovation (SEARHC also received $2.00 million from the Denali Commission for the Hydaburg clinic renovation). SEARHC receives grant to assist with transition of Hoonah clinic: The Indian Health Service has awarded SEARHC a one-year, $100,000 tribal management grant to assist in the transition of the Trudy Wolfe Health Center in Hoonah to SEARHC. The grant focuses on developing services in three main areas — quality improvement/infection control, business office operations and information service improvements. The grant funds a half-time position for one year (March 1, 2010, through Feb. 28, 2011), preferably based in Hoonah. It also funds associated travel, equipment and supplies. Recruitment has started. March 20, is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: The fourth annual National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was Saturday, March 20, and on Friday Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital hosted a display about HIV/AIDS in its lobby. While all people have been impacted by HIV/AIDS, this day highlights the growing rates in Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. It encourages education, testing and prevention. For more information, go to the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center site at http://www.nnaapc.org/. Reminder - SEARHC launched new 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. Reminder – March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: This month is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which means it is a good time to talk to your provider about screening if you are older than 50 years old or have a family history of colorectal cancer. Colon cancer is the No. 1 incident cancer in Alaska Natives (it is the No. 3 incident cancer nationwide), and it is second only to lung cancer in mortality among Alaska Natives. A colonoscopy screening test can detect precancerous polyps in the colon, and these polyps can be removed during the colonoscopy so they never develop into cancer. We also know colon cancer can be prevented when we quit using tobacco, maintain a healthy weight by eating lots of fruits and vegetables and limiting our red meat, and get lots of physical activity. For more information about colorectal cancer, contact SEARHC Colorectal Cancer Screening Program Patient Navigator Jeannette Chavez at 966-8919. Reminder – Deadline approaches for 2010 Ethel Lund Village Health Occupations Program (VHOP) applications: The application deadline is Monday, March 22, for the Ethel Lund Village Health Occupations Program (VHOP). This program provides a great opportunity for high school students to learn about health careers. Each year, SEARHC selects at least 12 Native high school students to spend a week watching real emergency room doctors in action, being with operating room staff during surgery or seeing a dentist perform a root canal. Job-shadowing health care workers might prompt the students to pursue their own health careers. This year's VHOP is April 19-23 (April 18 and 24 are travel days). Application packets can be found at local high schools, village corporations or online at http://www.searhc.org/vhop/. For info, contact Romee McAdams at 966-8476 or romee.mcadams@searhc.org. Spring 2010 mobile mammogram schedule announced. Women in Haines, Kake, Skagway, Yakutat and Angoon can save the dates for this spring’s mobile mammogram van visits to their communities. The mobile mammogram van will be in Haines on May 4-18, in Kake on May 24-27, in Skagway on June 1-4, in Yakutat on June 9-16 and in Angoon on June 21-23. The mobile mammography program is run through a partnership between Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau 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. For more information, contact your local clinic or call the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program at 966-8782 in Sitka or 1-888-388-8782 (toll-free in Alaska), send an e-mail to askwh@searhc.org, or go online at http://www.searhc.org/womenshealth/. Regards, Roald.