President’s Update for Dec. 7, 2012

In this edition...

Anna Frisby completes physician assistant studies and passes her certification

Longtime Hydaburg Community Health Aide/Pracititioner Anna Frisby graduated from the University of Washington MEDEX Program this summer and recently passed her certification boards to become a physician assistant (PA-C). Anna has been with SEARHC since 1995, when she started as a community health aide. “She has put forth a tremendous effort in the past two years while in training, and we are looking forward to her being the supervisory provider at the SEARHC Alma Cook Medical Center in Hydaburg,” said Dr. Russ Bowman, DO, MS, MHA, SEARHC Community Health Carei Services Medical Director. In order to complete her Alaska physician assistant license, Anna will work under the direct supervision of Dr. Ellen Kemper at the Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock for four weeks before she can start working as a PA-C in Hydaburg. “We are very excited to have Anna in this role and know she will do very well in it,” Dr. Bowman said. While working as a community health practitioner in Hydaburg, Anna received the 2009 “Shining Star” Health Aide of the Year Award from the directors of the Alaska Community Health Aide Program.

Terry Kinney joins Sitka staff as mental health midlevel practitioner

Terry Kinney, PA-C, CAQ-Psychiatry, has joined the staff at the SEARHC Haa Toowóo Náakw Hít outpatient behavioral health clinic in Sitka as a mental health midlevel practitioner. Terry is certified as a physician assistant with a certificate of added qualifications (CAQ) in psychiatry by the National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants. He attended the University of Washington in Seattle, where he earned his physician assistant credential through the University of Washington School of Medicine’s MEDEX program and also earned a Bachelor of Clinical Health Services degree. In addition, he holds a licensed practical nurse credential earned at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood, Wash. Before moving to Sitka, Terry worked in Bethel practicing primary care and psychiatry with the Bethel Family Clinic. Prior to moving to Alaska, Terry worked as a psychiatric physician assistant at Shasta County Mental Health and for psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Andrews, both in Redding, Calif., and for Frontier Village Family Health Care in Red Bluff, Calif. He also has worked as a psychiatric nurse at Western State Hospital in Steilacoom, Wash., and Pierce County Behavioral Health in Tacoma. Terry loves working with the severely mentally ill patients as well as all the other psychiatric patients. He also enjoys hiking, golf, waterskiing, fishing, hunting, ranching and gardening.

SEARHC launches Medicare enrollment campaign

SEARHC patients age 64 or older will soon receive a card in the mail from the SEARHC Community Transformation Grant program about the advantages of registering for Medicare. The cards are expected to be mailed to 2,800 patients next week. Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, or are disabled. Medicare can pay for medical costs not provided by your local SEARHC clinic. To apply, people can click here, or they can stop by their local SEARHC clinic for a Medicare application. Those elders who complete their “Welcome to Medicare” health screening at their local SEARHC clinic by March 30, 2013, will be entered into a prize drawing for a $100 Visa gift card. For more information, contact Martha Pearson at 966-8783.

SEARHC continues to make progress on electronic health record

 The Electronic Health Record (EHR) implementation is continuing in a number of areas. The RPMS (Resource and Patient Management System) GUI (Graphic User Interface) scheduler is now live in Haines, and is expected to be used for all behavioral health appointments starting in January. This week, Information Technology staff trained field staff to use the RPMS GUI scheduler to prepare them for go-lives at their respective clinics. We ordered computer hardware for VistaA Imaging, clinical document scanning and display software that integrates with the EHR. IHS EHR and Referred Care Information System (RCIS) experts helped us configure the EHR so that providers can create electronic referrals directly within the EHR. Our goal is to greatly reduce or even eliminate faxing and emailing related to referrals. We are working with programmers on interfaces between RPMS and the Orchard (Lab) and Novarad (Radiology) systems. An intensive week of RPMS lab package configuration, a joint effort between SEARHC staff and IHS lab experts, starts Dec. 17. Our first EHR go-live is scheduled for the Alicia Roberts Medical Center (ARMC) in Klawock in early March. To help prepare for this, Clinical Applications Coordinator Teresa Heston will be at ARMC on Dec. 11-12 to demonstrate the EHR and to gather information on the various services that will use the EHR.

Dec. 2-8 is National Influenza Vaccination Week

This week has been National Influenza Vaccination Week, and everybody age 6 months or older is encouraged to get the flu vaccine. Contact your local SEARHC clinic or your local Alaska Public Health Center to find out more about the flu vaccine. To learn more about the seasonal flu and how to prevent it, click this link. The flu is caused by viruses and can be much more severe than the common cold, which has similar symptoms. The most common symptoms of the flu are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pain, headaches (often severe), coughing, weakness, fatigue and general discomfort. Sometimes the flu includes nausea and vomiting, especially in children. During a typical year, about 3 million to 5 million people worldwide will get the flu, and 250,000 to 500,000 wil die from it. A flu shot (or inhaler for children) is the best protection against influenza. People also can prevent the spread of the flu by coughing into their elbow or sleeve instead of their hands, washing their hands regularly, avoiding contact with sick people, and staying home if you’re sick.

Hydaburg passes ATV safety ordinance

The City of Hydaburg recently passed a new all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety ordinance that requires helmets and safety certificates for youth drivers, sets speed limits in town for all ATV drivers and requires safety flags to make the machines more visible. The ATV safety ordinance was introduced over the summer, with city clerks Stacia Miller and Jessica Montgomery helping fine-tune the language. Colleen Watson, Alaska Public Health Nurse, worked with the SEARHC POW Health Educator June May and Lesa Way of the SEARHC Safety Shop in Sitka to provide ATV safety classes in the schools and a drawing for two ATV helmets during the Hydaburg Culture Camp in August. The ordinance was passed and signed by Mayor Anthony Christianson in November, and the new rules are being phased in over the next month or two as people receive warnings before they receive fines.

Kasaan Clinic construction project moves toward planned February completion

After a false start, the Kasaan Clinic construction project is back on track and moving toward a projected completion date in February 2013. This is a project that started in the spring of 2008, when the Denali Commission designated the Organized Village of Kasaan (OVK) as its tribal partner to develop a statewide prototype clinic for the smallest Alaska villages. OVK worked with McCool, Carlson, Green Architects for 18 months to design a clinic prototype that addressed several key issues — it can be built anywhere in the state, be energy efficient and use available alternative energy resources, and it had to feature other creative cost-containment options for remote sites. Three prototype plans were developed and the Denali Commission selected Kasaan as the first community to build the prototype clinics. The City of Kasaan donated land for the project. The community selected one of the three plans and the design was fit to match the site. According to OVK project manager/grant writer Jon Wunrow, the clinic construction broke ground in Fall 2011, but it had a false start with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) as the construction contractor. OVK eventually canceled the contract with ANTHC and put it back out for bid in Summer 2012, when the construction bid went to Arctic Slope Regional Corp.-McGraw Construction of Sitka. ASRC-McGraw Construction began work on the foundation in early October 2012 and is moving full steam ahead. The clinic is being built with funding from the Denali Commission, SEARHC, the City of Kasaan and OVK. When the new clinic is complete, it will be operated by SEARHC and staffed by a community health aide/practitioner with weekly itinerant services by a mid-level provider. Dental teams also will make regular visits from the Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock.

ANTHC offers $5,000 scholarships for health care students

 The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) is pleased to announce the reinstatement of the ANTHC $5000 Scholarship for the remainder of the 2012/2013 academic year. Detailed information and the complete application can be found at this link. ANTHC will award five $5,000 scholarships each academic year. Please consider this invitation to apply or distribute to others in your community who may be interested. The Education, Development and Training (EDT) department at ANTHC is accepting applications now through Dec. 31 to award for the remaining spring and summer terms. This scholarship may be used for tuition, books, and fees for professional certificate programs or higher education degrees (Associates, Bachelors and PhDs). ANTHC grants these scholarships as an integral part of its long-term strategy to increase Alaska Natives and American Indians in the health care field. This scholarship award is open to all individuals who are Alaska Native or American Indian and meet the following eligibility requirements — permanent Alaska residents; interested in working in the health care field; and currently enrolled in a formal education or training program. In the future, ANTHC will be offering this scholarship on an annual basis, at the beginning of each academic year. The next award offering will be in the fall of 2013 for the 2013/2014 academic year.

Healthy Alaskans 2020 survey results released

Preliminary results from the initial Healthy Alaskans 2020 survey have been released. Alaskans were invited to take the survey between Sept. 17 and Oct. 22. The results will be used to formulate the next survey, which will be designed to further narrow the list of leading health issues. The process is expected to guide health efforts in our state based on common health goals over the next decade. According to the more than 1,500 Alaskans who responded to the survey, the top 10 health issues important to Alaskans, in order of priority, are alcohol use and abuse; cost of health care; diet, exercise and obesity; other substance abuse; violence; community safety; quality of life and well-being; sexual and reproductive practices; chronic disease related health outcomes; and education. Questions in the survey were divided into five main categories — Health Behaviors, Access to Care, Social and Economic Factors, Physical Environment, and Health Outcomes. The complete report is available on the Healthy Alaskans 2020 website. The next survey period begins Jan. 15, 2013, and it will be open to all Alaskans who go to the website to take the survey. Healthy Alaskans 2020 is a joint effort of the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC). The Healthy Alaskans 2020 vision is healthy Alaskans in healthy communities. Its mission is to provide a framework and foster partnerships to optimize health for all Alaskans and their communities.

VA, IHS announce national reimbursement agreement that will allow Native veterans to access care closer to home

 American Indian and Alaska Native veterans will soon have increased access to health care services closer to home following a recent Department of Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Service (IHS) joint national agreement. The new national agreement is similar to a joint agreement signed earlier this year between the Alaska VA Healthcare System and several Alaska tribal health organizations, including SEARHC. As a result of the national agreement, VA is now able to reimburse the IHS for direct care services provided to eligible American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans. While the national agreement applies only to VA and IHS, it will inform agreements negotiated between the VA and tribal health programs (such as the Alaska agreement signed in May). VA copayments do not apply to direct care services provided by IHS to eligible American Indian and Alaska Native veterans under this agreement. The agreement between the two agencies marks an important partnering achievement for VA and the IHS and is consistent with the Obama administration's goal to increase access to care for veterans. To view the national agreement, please click here. To find out additional information about American Indian and Alaska Native veteran programs, please click here to learn about VA relations with tribal governments, and click here to learn about the Indian Health Service. 

Charles Clement
Charles Clement President/CEO
3100 Channel Drive, Ste. 300
Juneau, AK 99801
(907) 463-4000

Just a reminder...

Check out SEARHC’s new page on Facebook

If you haven’t already done so, please check out SEARHC’s new page on Facebook. This page will provide people with updates about what’s happening around the consortium. This page is new, so it will be adding more content over time. If you’re on Facebook, please like our page so you can keep up on the news at SEARHC.

SEARHC patient advocates serve as customer liaisons

SEARHC has three patient advocate positions in Southeast Alaska — Bryan Whitson (Sitka), Cyndi Reeves (POW), and Debra Graceland (Juneau) — who serve as customer service liaisons between patients and SEARHC, and help patients navigate their way through SEARHC’s health system. In addition, 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 Klawock, Craig, Hydaburg, Kasaan, Thorne Bay and other POW communities should contact Cyndi Reeves at 755-4983 (965-0040, cell). Patients in Juneau, Haines, Skagway, Klukwan and Hoonah should contact Debra Graceland (463-6656). Patients traveling to Anchorage for care should contact the ANMC patient advocates at 729-3990.

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.

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).