President’s Update for April 9, 2011

In this edition...

In this edition … Board meeting update: The SEARHC Board of Directors and several committees met this week in Sitka. The Board met Thursday and Friday, April 7-8, for its regular quarterly business meeting. The accreditation governing body, a committee that oversees the operations of the hospital and clinics, met on Tuesday, April 5. A joint meeting of the strategic planning and community action committees met on Wednesday, April 6, to work on the strategic planning project. A draft strategic plan will be brought to the board in June. In addition to several items of regular business, the board received an important update from Alaska Native Medical Center staff on the efforts to improve referrals, appointments, housing, transportation, and travel. The board’s auditor reported on the conclusions from the FY2010 audit. New members joined the SEARHC Board of Directors from Yakutat and Petersburg. Mary Katasse Miller (Petersburg Indian Association) and Beverly Bremner (Yakutat Tlingit Tribe) took the oath of office on Thursday. The Organized Village of Kasaan announced the retirement of Paula Peterson. This meeting was Paula’s last meeting on the board. The board recognized Paula’s many years of service to the Native people of Southeast Alaska and her commitment to quality health services. Back to top Hydaburg representative elected Board Chair: The Board of Directors elected Jolene Edenshaw to the Board Chair position on Friday (April 8). Ms. Edenshaw is the Hydaburg Cooperative Association’s representative on the Board of Directors. Jolene is replacing Victoria Demmert from the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe (YTT). Ms. Demmert is President of YTT and her tribe needs her additional time and talents at the community level due to multiple projects. The Board recognized Victoria’s contributions to SEARHC and her leadership in the role of Board Chair. Back to top Federal government avoids a shutdown: Congressional leaders and President Obama took it right up to the deadline Friday night (April 8) before coming up with an agreement to avoid a government shutdown. The deadline activities meant many tense minutes as we tried to figure out what would happen if the government could not come up with a deal to keep the federal government open through the end of the fiscal year in September. SEARHC health operations remained unchanged with the federal government’s discussion of shutdown. Our few federal employees were deemed essential and would have continued to work alongside the remainder of our staff during this time. Our challenge has continued without an adopted federal budget since October 2010. Under continuing resolutions, it is common for SEARHC to receive federal payments approximately 20 days following the passage of the temporary measures. While a federal shutdown loomed this week, our challenges have existed since Oct. 1 without the full payment of the compact funds. With a little more than an hour to spare, the Republican-led House and Democrat-led Senate came up with an agreement that includes a record $38 billion real-dollar spending cut from this year’s budget. The deal does not include a Republican rider that would cut health care services for low-income women provided by Planned Parenthood and other groups, which news reports said was the final sticking point in the negotiations. Since there wasn’t enough time for Congress to write the actual bill to fund the rest of the fiscal year, the House and Senate passed a stopgap bill that keeps the government open through Thursday while the larger funding bill is written and passed. Even though Congress did reach an agreement to keep the government open, the deadline activities did have some impacts. The tribal consultations scheduled for April 15 in Anchorage were postponed until June because of worries that federal employees would not be able to participate in meetings. We also had some staff members who were scheduled to travel to trainings run by different federal agencies next week, and some had to change their travel plans. After six continuing resolutions and this final deadline, we are happy to see a budget finally passed for FY2011. This will help our financial situation because we finally will receive our lump-sum payments from the government, instead of being paid pro-rated amounts during the times the government was operating under continuing resolutions. This will allow us to replace the funds we used from our reserve account to maintain operations while we waited for the budget to pass. It also means the government can start implementing some of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act provisions that were passed with last year’s Affordable Health Care Act but had to wait for the budget before they could move forward. Back to top Students learn about behavioral health careers at Behavioral Health Academy: Nine students ages 16-25 from around the region completed the Behavioral Health Academy April 4-8 in Sitka. This week-long event gave the students an opportunity to learn about the wide variety of behavioral health careers available in Alaska and let them know what kind of training and skills are needed to fill the positions. The students came from Kake, Haines, Pelican, Sitka, and even the Lower 48 (a student who happened to be visiting Sitka). This was the second time the academy has been held. The Alaska Mental Health Trust funded the academy, and sponsoring organizations included the Southeast Area Health Education Center (SE AHEC), SEARHC, the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus, Sitka Counseling and Prevention Services (SCAPS), the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Southeast Alaska Career Center (SEACC), Sitka Tribe of Alaska and Mt. Edgecumbe High School. Back to top CHA, CHP, DHA and BHA Week honors health aides in our rural communities: April 18-23 is Community Health Aide, Community Health Practitioner, Dental Health Aide and Behavioral Health Aide Week in Alaska, by order of Gov. Sean Parnell. The week encourages Alaska residents to recognize the valuable contributions of these front-line health care workers in rural Alaska and thank them for their dedication and service. SEARHC has several of these workers on staff, and SEARHC also operates one of the state’s four Community Health Aide Training Centers on the Sitka campus. The CHA/Ps have been the backbone of our rural health system for many years, and in recent years we’ve added similar positions for dental and behavioral health. Back to top Raven’s Way gets positive response from UAF substance abuse counseling class: Yeil Jeeyáx Raven’s Way Wilderness Expedition and Counselor Supervisor Clint Simic and the program received a lot of positive feedback after a recent presentation to the University of Alaska Fairbanks HUMS F305 Substance Abuse Counseling class, taught by Assistant Professor Lara Hensley. Several students sent Clint thank-you notes for speaking to the class, and a couple of them said they appreciated learning about the Raven’s Way program and how it helps young people fight their dependence on alcohol and drugs. Two of the students also wrote about personally knowing young people in their community who had gone through the Raven’s Way program and the progress they’ve made since going through treatment. Another student appreciated the cultural aspect of the program. Several of the students asked about jobs after they complete their degree programs. It’s nice to hear positive feedback like this about one of our more successful programs. Back to top Update on new Anchorage patient advocate: Last week we announced that former SEARHC employee Alicia Soto was hired by the Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) to serve as an Anchorage-based patient advocate for SEARHC and KANA patients seeking care at the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC). Alicia’s phone number is 1-907-729-3992, and her office will be located at ANMC (with the Customer Experience staff across from the cafeteria). We are excited to share this patient advocate position with KANA and having someone at ANMC will be a great benefit for our patients. In addition, we have three patient advocates here in Southeast, in Sitka, Juneau and Klawock. Bryan Whitson (966-8860) is based at S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital and serves patients from Sitka, Angoon, Kake, Pelican, Petersburg, Wrangell and Tenakee. Ashley Hunt (463-6656) is based at the Ethel Lund Medical Center and serves patients from Juneau, Haines, Klukwan, Hoonah and Skagway. Cyndi Reeves (755-4983 office or 965-0040 cell) is based at the Alicia Roberts Medical Center and serves patients from Klawock, Craig, Hydaburg, and Kasaan. The four patient advocates are the customer service liaisons for our patients (or ANMC for Alicia). Back to top Just a Reminder … Radiation worries from the Japanese nuclear plant: Many Alaskans are worried about radiation from the damaged nuclear plant in Japan reaching Alaska and impacting our health and food supplies. SEARHC and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium staff is in contact with state and federal health officials, and we are monitoring the situation closely. There are five radiation monitors in Alaska, including one in Juneau, and so far there have been only trace amounts of radiation from the plant to reach the state, not enough to cause any health problems. At this time there is no need for people to take potassium iodide pills, which can cause severe side effects if used improperly. For more information about the nuclear plant and radiation reaching Alaska, ANTHC created a website with updates, http://www.anthc.org/chs/ces/emergmgt/index.cfm. The State of Alaska also has a website, http://www.hss.state.ak.us/prepared/radiological.htm. Back to top 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. Back to top 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 Prevention Program Director Wilbur Brown at 966-8753. Back to top Regards, Roald