President’s Update for April 13, 2012

In this edition...

In this edition …

Three possible paralytic shellfish poisoning cases reported in Juneau: Three suspected cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning have been reported this week to the Alaska Section of Epidemiology. All three were the result of eating shellfish harvested in the Juneau area over Easter weekend. The first case, reported on April 10, was a man who went to the hospital in Juneau complaining of numbness and tingling that began in his lips and tongue and had progressed to his hands. The man had reported eating razor clams harvested from Admiralty Island, and had symptoms develop with a few hours. The next two cases, reported April 12, were from two people who reported eating butter clams harvested from either Lincoln Island or Ralston Island over Easter weekend. The couple reported tingling and numbness of the lips, tongue and face that developed a few hours after eating the clams. All suspected victims are recovering. These three cases of PSP and some cases this winter in the Ketchikan/Metlakatla areas should serve as reminders that the state does not recommend eating certain types of any subsistence or recreationally harvested shellfish. Southeast Alaska beaches and other beaches in the state are not tested for PSP toxin. This past year has been especially active for PSP in Southeast Alaska, in particular in Ketchikan and Metlakatla where last summer saw some of the highest levels of PSP toxin ever recorded. There also were cases of PSP reported in November and December in Metlakatla and February in Ketchikan, the first the state has recorded for those months. PSP can cause severe health problems and even death, and there is no antidote. PSP generally affects bivalves that filter food when they eat, such as clams, cockles, mussels, oysters or scallops. Crab meat does not carry the PSP toxin, but crab guts can have the toxin since crab eat bivalves. To learn more about PSP, go to http://searhc.org/publications/featured_stories/2011_06_psp.php.

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COO Susan Labus presents at Sitka Economic Summit: Chief Operating Officer Susan Labus represented SEARHC and the health care sector on Wednesday, April 11, when she gave a presentation to the Sitka Economic Summit at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Sponsored by the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce, this event featured representatives from several Sitka industries who spoke on the state of the industry and their businesses. Other speakers included Sitka City Administrator Jim Dinley, Sitka Schools Superintendent Steve Bradshaw, Sitka Tribe of Alaska Vice Chairman Dale Williams, Sitka Historical Society Executive Director Bob Medinger, Dan Falvey of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Theresa Wiser of the Sitka Charter Boat Operators Association, Dirk and Trish White of White’s Inc./Harry Race/Seasons, Eugene Solovyov of Sitka Rose Gallery, Michael Wien of Allen Marine Alaska Dream Cruises, and Tonia Rioux of the Sitka Convention and Visitors Bureau. Sitka Economic Development Association Executive Director Garry White wrapped up the summit with a presentation on basic Sitka economic indicators.

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Study: Dental therapists worldwide offer safe care: A new report says dental therapists worldwide including Alaska offer safe and competent care in locations with rare access to dentists, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday (April 10). The report by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, released Tuesday, details a review of more than 1,100 documents of care by dental therapists in 54 countries, including the United States. Beside Alaska, Minnesota is the only U.S. state to allow midlevel providers to perform such work as extracting teeth and filling cavities. Foundation officials say more than a dozen other states are exploring the idea. Dental therapists in Alaska and elsewhere have been controversial. Critics, including many dentists, have said such complex procedures should be done only by licensed dentists, according to the AP. Kellogg Foundation officials say the new study found no evidence suggesting dental therapists weren't fit for the work. The dental therapist program in Alaska is managed by the Alaska Tribal Health System, and it is based on findings in a 1998 white paper, “Crisis in Access to Dental Care,” written by SEARHC Director of Dental Services Dr. Tom Bornstein.

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SEARHC among stakeholders for Sitka Sustainable Outdoor Recreation Action Plan: On Tuesday, April 10, stakeholders met to sign the Sitka Sustainable Outdoor Recreation Action Plan. This plan represents nearly two years of work, and it outlines an ambitious and comprehensive set of outdoor recreation projects, as well as a list of community priorities. The plan was crafted by a large group of stakeholders, with Clint Simic of the Yéil Jeeyáx Raven’s Way adolescent residential substance abuse treatment program representing SEARHC on the steering committee. Other stakeholders included the Tongass National Forest Sitka Ranger District, Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, City and Borough of Sitka, Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka National Historical Park, Sitka Trail Works Inc., Sitka Tribe of Alaska, local businesses, vintage outdoors users (aka, seniors/elders), and more. A draft of the plan can be found at http://getoutsitka.wordpress.com/.

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SEARHC joins other health organizations for National Infant Immunization Week and World Immunization Week: During the last week in April (April 21-28), hundreds of communities across the United States will join countries around the world to celebrate the critical role vaccinations play in protecting our children, communities and public health. This year marks the first global immunization observance — World Immunization Week, an initiative of the World Health Organization. Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases. Immunization is a shared responsibility. Families, healthcare professionals and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community. Please join SEARHC in protecting our children and families against preventable disease. For more information about the importance of vaccinations, contact your local SEARHC provider or Laurie Hood, RN, in Sitka at 966-8738, or go to http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niiw/index.html.

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Just a reminder …

Spring mobile mammogram van schedule announced: The SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program and Bartlett Regional Hospital have announced the Spring 2012 schedule for the mobile mammogram program. The mobile mammography van will visit Kake on May 1-4, Haines on May 9-22, Angoon on May 24-30, Skagway on June 4-7, Yakutat on June 13-18, and Gustavus on June 22 (no weekend appointments). Women are encouraged to contact their local clinics prior to the scheduled visit because they will need to receive a clinical breast exam before they can get their mammograms. The mobile mammography program is run through a partnership between Bartlett Regional Hospital 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. The SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program provides free clinical breast exams, mammograms, Pap tests and cardiovascular screenings for all women ages 40 and older who meet income and insurance guidelines. For more information, contact your local clinic, call the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program in Sitka at 966-8782 (or 1-888-388-8782, toll-free in Alaska), or send e-mail to askwh@searhc.org. For more information about services available through the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program, go to http://www.searhc.org/womenshealth/.

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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. Also, the Alaska Native Medical Center provides Anchorage-based patient advocates who serve patients from around the state 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 the ANMC patient advocates at 729-3990.

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SEARHC hosts summer internship program for Natives: Applications are available for the SEARHC Summer Internship Program, which provides work experience for Alaska Native/American Indian students pursuing careers in health care. The SEARHC Summer Internship Program provides opportunities for six Alaska Native/American Indian students who are studying at the high school, bachelor’s degree and/or master’s degree/clinical level. The program allows participants to explore career options in health care, and the interns receive valuable on-the-job training in their health care career of interest and an hourly stipend. At the end of the program, interns will receive a performance evaluation with valuable feedback from their mentor(s). The application deadline is Friday, May 11 (the application must be received or postmarked by this date), and the final selection of interns takes place on May 21. The internship program runs from June through September 2012. During the program, the interns will work a minimum of 30 hours and a maximum of 40 hours per week under the supervision of a manager at a SEARHC facility. Although an hourly stipend is provided, interns are responsible for their own housing and transportation during the internship program. SEARHC will not provide housing and/or transportation. Completed applications may be mailed to Jessika Beam (966-8903) at SEARHC, c/o Human Resources Department, 222 Tongass Drive, Sitka, AK 99835. Applications also can be faxed to 966-8527, or scanned and e-mailed to jessika.beam@searhc.org. Application packets and additional details are available at Southeast Alaska high school offices, through local tribal organizations or by going to http://searhc.org/students/college_interns.php.

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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.

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SEARHC provides 24/7 on-call travel coordinators for patients traveling for care: SEARHC has a 24/7 on-call travel coordinator to assist patients needing after-hours help while traveling for a medical appointment. The on-call staff person helps patients find new connections when a plane is diverted by weather, or assists with late-night housing. For assistance, call 1-800-916-8566 (toll-free in Alaska) or 1-907-966-8345 in Sitka, and then follow the prompts. To help us better help you, please call as soon as you know your travel schedule has been changed. For patients needing assistance from the Community Resources Program (contract health), such as emergency health care while traveling, call 1-866-966-8316 (toll-free).

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Charles Clement SEARHC President/CEO