President’s Update for Aug. 14, 2010

In this edition...

This week was particularly busy with several meetings of SEARHC with representatives of the Indian Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services (Federal), Department of Health and Social Services (State), Veterans Affairs and other agencies. We will be attending final negotiations this week on SEARHC’s Funding Agreement and the Alaska Tribal Health Compact with the Indian Health Service. Tribal consultation with IHS Director: This week the Indian Health Services (IHS) Director held a tribal consultation with the co-signers of the Alaska Tribal Health Compact (ATHC). This was IHS Director Dr. Yvette Roubideaux’s first trip to Alaska in her current capacity. Sen. Mark Begich joined Dr. Roubideaux during the morning and spoke with our organizations about his support of tribal health services in Alaska. Tribal leaders and the IHS discussed the tribal consultation process, Dr. Roubideaux’s priorities for the IHS, and implementation of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) reauthorization. The morning started with a general session and each co-signer had a short individual session in the afternoon. SEARHC updated Dr. Roubideaux on the health center in Hoonah, importance of the Denali Commission in Alaska, request for support on reauthorization of special diabetes funds, and extension of a Frontier Extended Stay Clinic (FESC) demonstration project in Klawock and Haines. Tribal consultation with Department of Health and Human Services: The co-signers to the Alaska Tribal Health Compact also held a tribal consultation with representatives of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). From the HHS were representatives from: the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs (Jodi Gillette); Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA); Region 10 of the Department of Health and Human Service; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Indian Health Service Director; Administration for Native Americans; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and representatives from our Congressional offices (Senators Murkowski & Begich; Representative Young). SEARHC comments focused on:
  • Coordinating funding sources to make the most effective health programs;
  • The need to expand behavioral health services, including substance abuse, mental health, and suicide prevention;
  • Tribal consultation;
  • Expanding programs within HHS to self-governance;
  • Innovative and successful programs within tribal health services; and
  • Increased coordination/services for veterans (eligible for VA).
Alaska Native Health Board Mega-Meeting: This week the Alaska Native Health Board (ANHB) held its semi-annual Mega-Meeting in Anchorage. The Mega-Meeting was held in addition to regular business of the Alaska Tribal Health Directors, ANHB strategic planning, and its regular business meeting. The Mega-Meeting is an opportunity for members of ANHB to share information with representatives of the State of Alaska, Indian Health Service, Denali Commission, and other Federal agencies. Representatives from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHHS) and the Alaska Area Native Health Service gave updates on operations, policy development, and program planning to the ANHB. ANHB members shared information on behavioral health needs including mental health, substance abuse, and suicide. The Denali Commission, DHHS Deputy Commissioners, State Juvenile Justice, State Public Assistance, State Division of Behavioral Health, and Senior Disabilities provided program updates. Reflections on the passing of former Sen. Ted Stevens: Alaska lost an iconic figure this week when former Sen. Ted Stevens, 86, was killed in a plane crash near Dillingham. During his 40 years in the U.S. Senate (1968-2008), Senator Stevens had a hand in significant legislation, including several that were beneficial to Alaska Natives and the tribal health system. Many of our clinics have been built or remodeled with the help of funding from the Denali Commission, which former Sen. Stevens created as a way to provide more infrastructure and services in rural Alaska. The Denali Commission also funds many sewer and water projects in rural communities. He was a key player in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), which created our Native corporations; he was involved with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which helped preserve subsistence on federal lands; and he had a hand in the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act, which allowed tribes to assume management of their own health care through organizations such as SEARHC. During one of his last trips to Southeast Alaska in his political career, former Sen. Stevens stopped by our SEARHC Juneau Behavioral Health Clinic for a demonstration of our telebehavioral health services. He wanted to see if it was a technology that could help provide behavioral health services to our many soldiers from rural Alaska who soon would be returning home from the Middle East. Alaska has suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of former Sen. Stevens. We’re deeply saddened by his death, but we’re grateful he was able to leave Alaska with this incredible legacy and we appreciate all of his service to our people. SEARHC joins meeting with Veterans Affairs: SEARHC joined a special meeting with the Veterans Affairs agency hosted by Sen. Mark Begich. I will include an update on this important meeting next week. The purpose of the meeting was to improve access to VA services for Veterans. The meeting was attended by Libby Watanabe and included ANB Grand President Willard Jackson. ANTHC introduces Continuum of Care Initiative during ANHB Mega-Meeting: During the Mega-Meeting, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) introduced its Continuum of Care Initiative. This initiative is developing a new system to ensure the best coordination, transitions and continuity of care for patients from the regional health programs who seek care at the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC). This program not only is looking at how to improve care for those patients from rural communities who travel to ANMC, but also will look at what happens to patients after they return to their home communities. As ANMC staff and regional providers develop this new system of care, we will look at the patient handoff between medical providers, diagnosis, treatment, discharge, follow-up care, transportation arrangements, scheduling, medications, and other issues involved when more than one health care agency takes care of the same patient. Once this program is fully developed and tested, it should improve the collaboration between ANMC and the regional providers, and that in turn will mean better overall health care because patients will get the right care at the right time from the right person. ANMC announces changes to Quyana House: Also at the ANHB Mega-Meeting, ANMC announced some changes that are in progress at Quyana Hospitality House, the 119-bed, 59-room housing facility for patients and escorts who travel to ANMC to receive care. The changes include the remodeling of rooms to be more patient friendly, a remodel of the lobby that is about to start, and a change to the cleaning policy so rooms now are cleaned every other day and at discharge instead of just at discharge. These changes will make Quyana House a more comfortable place to stay when our patients have to travel to ANMC for care. Matthew Ione to become new Human Resources Director on Aug. 29: We are excited to announce that Matthew Ione, an Iñupiaq currently working as a senior generalist at Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital for SEARHC Human Resources, will be promoted to Human Resources Director on Aug. 29. Current Human Resources Director Melanie Millhorn will remain at SEARHC. Melanie will work as a senior generalist based in Juneau so she can have more time to spend with her family and pursue a master’s degree. Matthew, who grew up in White Mountain and was valedictorian when he graduated from Mt. Edgecumbe High School, holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Wayland Baptist University. He holds the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) credential from the Human Resources Certification Institute. Before coming to SEARHC, Matthew spent 14 years working in the human resources field in Alaska and Oregon, primarily with the Alaska Tribal Health System and ANTHC, but also in the educational, information technology and oil industries. He served in the U.S. Navy. Matthew will be based in Juneau. SEARHC offers Gatekeeper suicide prevention training in Metlakatla: Pauline “Aluki” Brower and Sheryl McAllister from the SEARHC Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program traveled to Metlakatla on Aug. 1-3 to offer Gatekeeper suicide prevention training at the local clinic. Alaska Gatekeeper Training teaches people how to recognize the warning signs that someone is contemplating suicide and how to work with the individual to prevent the suicide from being attempted. Aluki and Sheryl worked with Sandy Wilson of Metlakatla, who is on the Southeast Alaska Suicide Prevention Task Force sponsored by SEARHC. They had eight community members attend the first day of the training and 13 attend the second day, with local police, teachers, clinic workers, fire department and Boys and Girls Club staff attending the meeting. There was a lot of interest in hosting a second class at a later date. While in Metlakatla, Aluki and Sheryl promoted the SEARHC Help Line (1-877-294-0074) and received positive feedback about the service. They also attended local events such as the opening ceremony to the newly renovated Duncan Cottage Museum, and they also helped paint the museum’s fence. SEARHC clinics eligible for power cost equalization (PCE): This week we received information that several of our clinics will be eligible under an exemption for power cost equalization (PCE). The PCE program provides economic assistance for rural communities due to the high cost of electricity. Officials from the program met with the Alaska Tribal Health Directors and Alaska Native Health Board this last week in Anchorage. Special well-child and other pediatric exams available on POW in August: Nancy Cavanaugh, a pediatric nurse practitioner at the SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe High School Student Health Center in Sitka, will be on Prince of Wales Island on Aug. 16-19 to provide special well-child exams, sports physicals, and immunizations in Klawock and Hydaburg. She also visited Prince of Wales in June and July to provide special well-child exams for teens and for children ages 0-18. Her August trip arrangements are being finalized and it will involve well-child exams, school and Head Start physicals on Aug. 16-18 at ARMC and the morning of Aug. 19 at the SEARHC Hydaburg Health Center. These special well-child exam clinics are covered by the Indian Health Service for all Native patients, by most private insurance plans, and by Denali KidCare or Medicaid for Native and non-Native families that meet income requirements. To schedule appointments, call ARMC at 755-4800 or the Hydaburg Health Center at 285-3462. SEARHC to help host suicide intervention training Aug. 19–20 in Klawock: SEARHC Behavioral Health Prevention Specialist Brenda Leask and Community Family Service Worker Anna Trudeau are helping to coordinate an ASIST (Applied Suicide intervention Skills Training) workshop Aug. 19–20 at the Prince of Peace Assembly of God Church hall in Klawock. The class will have 16–20 participants and three trainers with many participants from the Klawock Tribal Youth Program that Leask helps lead as part of her duties with SEARHC. ASIST is designed to help first responders work with people who may be contemplating suicide, so they can help defuse the situation and get the person help. ASIST is an international skills program that teaches first responders the best ways to help someone who is in crisis. For more information, go to or To learn more about this training event, contact Anna Trudeau at (907) 755-4952. Health Promotion to offer free health screenings in Haines: The SEARHC Health Promotion program will offer free health screenings for adults (age 18 or older) on Sept. 1–2 in Haines. Health screenings will take place at the Chilkat Center for the Arts. Participants are encouraged to call early to schedule 20-minutes appointments, though walk-in patients will be seen when there are gaps in the schedule. The screenings feature a simple blood test that gives people their non-fasting glucose, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and blood pressure results. To schedule an appointment, contact Mandy Ramsey at (907) 766-317. SEARHC, Bartlett Regional Hospital mobile mammograms prepare for summer/fall schedule: The Summer/Fall 2010 mobile mammogram season is getting ready to start soon, and the mobile mammography van will visit Hoonah on Aug. 23-27 to kick things off. The van also will visit Haines on Aug. 30-Sept. 13, Skagway on Sept. 14-17, Klawock on Sept. 22-Oct. 8, Craig on Oct. 11-12 and Metlakatla on Oct. 14-22. This list gives women the dates the mobile mammogram van will be in town, and specific appointment times will be available from the local clinic. The mobile mammography program is run through a partnership between Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau and the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program. Between the spring and summer/fall seasons, the van provides about 800-900 women in nine communities with regular mammography screening services in places where the services 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, or go online at If you have any questions or would like further information, please feel free to give me a call. Regards, Roald