President’s Update for June 22, 2012

In this edition...

In this edition …

SEARHC receives $597,542 grant for Hoonah clinic operations: SEARHC will receive $597,542 from the U.S. Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) to fund Hoonah clinic operations. The grant, which can be renewed each year, also includes a Section 330 community health center designation for the Hoonah Health Center. SEARHC already operates Section 330 health centers in Angoon, Haines, Hydaburg, Juneau, Kake, Kasaan, Klawock, Klukwan, Pelican, Tenakee Springs and Thorne Bay. The designation allows SEARHC to provide services to all residents of Hoonah (with non-Natives paying on a sliding fee scale based on income), and also allows SEARHC to tap other non-Indian Health Service funding sources so we can expand services, hire additional staff and improve facilities. Section 330 community health centers provide health care services for medically underserved areas or populations, such as when a clinic is the only health provider in a remote location or serves a special-needs population (for example, the Front Street Clinic in Juneau serves the homeless). The Section 330 designation helps clinics provide medical, dental, vision, behavioral health and prevention services.

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State issues advisory warning about increased PSP risks in Southeast Alaska: The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services on Friday, June 22, issued an advisory warning against eating certain types of recreationally and subsistence harvested shellfish in Southeast Alaska. Warm weather combined with an increasingly large algae bloom in Southeast Alaska has scientists advising extra caution. Water samples taken from around Etolin Island show increasing levels of Alexandrium algae, which produces paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in shellfish. Tests have also shown a slight increase in Alexandrium levels on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island as well as extremely high levels around Juneau. Scientists also have identified unsafe levels of three different species of Dinophysis algae, which produces diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP), in samples from around Ketchikan. DSP can cause diarrhea, PSP can cause paralysis. This is a continuation of recent PSP toxin outbreaks in Southeast Alaska over the last 3-4 years. Early signs of paralytic shellfish poisoning often include tingling of the lips and tongue. Symptoms may progress to tingling of fingers and toes, then loss of control of arms and legs, followed by difficulty breathing. Death can result in as little as two hours. All locally harvested shellfish — including clams, mussels, oysters, geoducks and scallops — can contain paralytic shellfish poison. Crabmeat is not known to contain the PSP toxin, but crab guts can contain unsafe levels of toxin and should be discarded. There is no way to tell if a beach is safe for harvesting by looking at it. Toxins can be present in large amounts even if the water looks clear. Also, the toxin can remain in shellfish long after the algae bloom is over. PSP cannot be cooked, cleaned or frozen out of shellfish. Commercially grown shellfish is tested and considered safe. Paralytic shellfish poisoning is considered a public health emergency. Suspected cases must be reported immediately to the Section of Epidemiology by health care providers at 907-269-8000 during work hours or 800-478-0084 after hours. When a PSP warning was issued last year, SEARHC posted information on its website about PSP and how to prevent and treat it, http://searhc.org/publications/featured_stories/2011_06_psp.php.

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U.S. Supreme Court decides for tribes in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Station case: The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, June 19, found in favor of tribes with its 5-4 decision in the 22-year-old Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Station case. In this case, the federal government hoped to overturn a lower court decision that found in favor of tribes (260 around the country, including 75 in Alaska) and said the Bureau of Indian Affairs didn’t fully fund law enforcement contracts. SEARHC and other tribal health organizations are interested in this case because it also applies to contract support costs from the Indian Health Service. According to SCOTUSBlog.com, this is the plain English issue of the case: “When Congress has authorized Native American tribes to take over federal programs from the government and receive reimbursement, but it has also capped the amount of money that can be spent for costs to administer and support the contracts for those federal programs, must a tribe still be fully reimbursed for its costs, or should the federal government instead divide the available funds among the tribes, even if that means that the tribes will receive less than their full costs?” The Chamber of Commerce of the United States and the National Defense Industrial Association both filed amicus briefs in support of the tribes seeking full funding of these contracts. In an interview with the Alaska Public Radio Network, Anchorage attorney Lloyd Miller, who worked on this case, said government attorneys told Supreme Court justices during the trial that the federal government could owe $1 billion if it lost the case. Because the government didn’t fully fund contracts, the tribes had to pay for fixed costs, such as workers compensation insurance, and tribes cut positions they couldn’t afford. Miller said the funding shortfall averaged about $100 million per year nationally, and about a third of that deficit was in Alaska.

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SEARHC seeks Sitka residents for diabetes group: SEARHC is looking for Sitka community members who may be interested in participating in a local coalition that will focus on preventing diabetes, while at the same time promoting how to manage the disease if you live with it. This coalition will focus on educating people about how to prevent and manage prediabetes, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. It will be a chance for interested community members to work together to reduce the impact of diabetes on Sitka. If you are interested in participating in the coalition or would like more information, please contact Renae Mathson at 966-8797 or renae.mathson@searhc.org.

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National ASK Day was Thursday, June 21: Do you know how safe the homes are where your kids play? On National ASK Day, which was Thursday, June 21, parents are reminded “Asking Saves Lives.” The primary message of National ASK Day is to ask if there are weapons where your children play, and if there are weapons to make sure that all rifles, shotguns and pistols are unloaded and locked up where children can’t get to them, preferably with trigger guards and ammunition stored separately. The SEARHC Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program and the Center to Prevent Youth Violence note that in America 40 percent of homes with children have guns, many unlocked and loaded (and the percentage of Alaska homes with guns may be higher). Every year thousands of children are killed or seriously injured when they find these weapons. In addition to asking about weapons, parents also are encouraged to ask about pools or ponds, trampolines, all-terrain vehicles and other risks, and to ask about what adult supervision will be available. For more information about National ASK Day, go to http://www.cpyv.org/programs/ask/parents/ask-day/.

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SEARHC hosts third annual sobriety picnic in Juneau: The SEARHC Juneau Behavioral Health Clinic is hosting its third annual sobriety picnic on Tuesday afternoon, July 3, at Sandy Beach in Douglas. There will be games, prizes and fun on the beach or at the softball fields during the afternoon, with the barbecue being fired up at 3 p.m. at the Sandy Beach picnic shelter (the shelter is reserved from noon to 8 p.m.). People can bring their favorite dishes to share, the more food the better. SEARHC Behavioral Health also will supply hot dogs, hamburgers and snacks, but people should bring side dishes, desserts and alcohol-free beverages. There will be lots of games for the kids, such as three-legged races, water balloon toss and other beach games. There will be sober fellowship for the adults, too. A Native drumming group also will be at the picnic. There will be a SEARHC banner hanging at the beach to help people find the group. For more information, contact Toni Weber at 463-6670 or by e-mail at toni.weber@searhc.org.

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SEARHC offers Gatekeeper suicide prevention training in Sitka and Wrangell: The SEARHC Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program will help teach two Gatekeeper suicide prevention classes in Sitka and Wrangell. The Sitka class will be taught by Sheryl McAllister and Mike Baines starting at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 27, at the SEARHC At Kaník Hít Community Health building. This class will last about four hours, with the possibility of more training the next day so participants can receive the suggested 7-8 hours of training. To register for the Sitka class, contact Sheryl at 966-8933 or send Mike a message on his Facebook page. The Wrangell class will be all day with a lunch break starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 30, at the Wrangell Library. To register for the Wrangell class, contact Ken Hoyt at 874-2712 or by e-mail at ken.hoyt@searhc.org, or call Sheryl at 966-8933. The Gatekeeper Alaska Suicide Prevention Training helps people learn more about the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, training them how to be good listeners so they can help people at risk of suicide until appropriate care can be available. To learn more about Gatekeeper training, go to http://www.hss.state.ak.us/suicideprevention/pdfs_sspc/sspcgatekeeper.pdf.

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SEARHC Health Promotion updates policies for health screenings: SEARHC has been actively working on helping people to learn to manage their health via the Know Your Numbers campaign. This year the health screening portion that measures a person’s biometrics has undergone policy changes to help us partner more efficiently with you. The policy change now requires all participants to fast for 12 hours prior to having their finger stuck, thus testing will be done only in the morning. We are looking for people who have not been screened in the past three years, thus allowing us to help people who may not be seen by their providers regularly. In addition, we are in the process of changing how we will follow up with patients to make sure they have seen the referral partner. The fasting blood test provides a more accurate view of your health numbers (blood glucose, cholesterol levels, etc.) than the random blood tests. For more information, contact Renae Mathson at 966-8797.

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Just a reminder …

SEARHC patient advocates serve as customer liaisons: SEARHC has three patient advocate positions in Southeast Alaska — Bryan Whitson (Sitka), Cyndi Reeves (POW), and our Juneau position is temporarily vacant — 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). Since our Juneau position is vacant, patients in Juneau, Haines, Skagway, Klukwan and Hoonah should contact Cyndi until we can hire a new Juneau patient advocate (use Cyndi’s numbers above or the Juneau patient advocate’s number of 463-6656, which will be routed to Cyndi). Patients traveling to Anchorage for care should contact the ANMC patient advocates at 729-3990.

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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