President’s Update for March 16, 2012

In this edition...

In this edition …

SEARHC groups help with Mount Edgecumbe High School Student Health Fair: The SEARHC Mount Edgecumbe Student Health Center sponsored its annual Health Fair for the entire high school on Saturday, March 10. Approximately 380 students attended and interacted with the following exhibits — SEARHC Dental Team on fluoride varnishes (218 administered) and dental professions; SEARHC Diabetes Prevention on healthy food portions, SEARHC Tobacco Cessation on tobacco prevention; MEHS Counseling Staff on stress reduction; Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV) on healthy relationships; University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus on health careers Staff/HS 101 and health career opportunities; SEARHC Ethel Lund Village Health Occupations Program on summer internships; SEARHC Pharmacy on over-the-counter medication dangers and pharmacy professions; UAS Nursing Students on sexually transmitted infections prevention; Sitka Planned Parenthood on pregnancy prevention; and the U.S. Coast Guard-Air Station Sitka on cold-water emergencies.

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SEARHC hosts Nolan the Colon tour to Juneau, Skagway and Yakutat: SEARHC will host “Nolan the Colon” for a tour of Juneau, Skagway and Yakutat during March and April. Nolan the Colon is an inflatable, interactive super colon, standing more than 10 feet tall and 25 feet long, designed to raise awareness about the importance of colorectal cancer screening. Nolan is big enough for people to walk through, so they can see what a healthy colon looks like and see how precancerous polyps can grow to become colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) ranks among the leading causes of death for Alaska Natives, and Natives are twice as likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer as non-Natives. The tour opens on Thursday through Saturday, March 22-24 (the last three days of the Gold Medal basketball tournament) when Nolan will be at Juneau-Douglas High School while games are in progress. The SEARHC Colorectal Cancer Screening Program will hold daily drawings for door prizes while Nolan is in Juneau. The next stop on the tour is the Skagway Community Health Fair from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 14, at the Skagway Recreational Center. Nolan then goes to the Yakutat Community Health Fair from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 21, at Yakutat High School. For more information about Nolan the Colon’s Southeast tour, please call SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s and Colorectal Health Programs Coordinator Nancy Jo Bleier at 966-8849. For more information about colorectal cancer and the SEARHC Colorectal Cancer Screening Program, talk to your SEARHC medical provider or call 966-8541.

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Kick Butts Day on March 21 highlights dangers of tobacco use: The 17th annual Kick Butts Day is Wednesday, March 21, and on this day the SEARHC Tobacco Quit Program is spreading the word about the dangers of youth tobacco use and providing information about resources available to those wanting to quit using tobacco. Kick Butts Day is a national day of activism that empowers youth to speak up and take action against tobacco use at more than 2,000 events across the nation. These events are designed to get tobacco users to think about quitting tobacco, and to help youth make the decision not to start. The SEARHC Tobacco Program will be honoring Kick Butts Day, and joining other groups to honor the day. In Juneau, SEARHC will join NCADD-Juneau (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) for a Kick Butts Day cookout from noon until 1 p.m. at Courthouse Plaza, where a Memorial Wall will be set up so people can post notes about the role tobacco has played in their lives, a Wall of Hope for those wanting to quit tobacco, a petition that can be signed by high school students and a proclamation from Mayor Bruce Botehlo. In Sitka, the SEARHC Tobacco Program will host an informational booth about tobacco’s impact on health from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sitka McDonald’s Restaurant. On Prince of Wales Island, the SEARHC Tobacco Program will host informational displays at the Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock and the Alma Cook Medical Center in Hydaburg. For information about the SEARHC Tobacco Quit Program, contact 1-866-966-8875 (toll-free in Alaska), and for info about the Alaska Quit Line, contact 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). To learn about tobacco’s health impact on Alaska, go to http://www.hss.state.ak.us/dph/chronic/tobacco/Alaska_Tobacco_Facts.pdf.

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SEARHC programs host Package Your Child in Love event on March 23: The SEARHC WIC (Women, Infants, Children) and SEARHC Southeast Alaska Child Passenger Safety programs are teaming up to host the “Package Your Child in Love” event in Juneau. This event takes place from 1-4 p.m. on Friday, March 23, at the SEARHC WIC Office, 3245 Hospital Dr. (on the first floor of the SEARHC Dental-Behavioral Health Building). The SEARHC WIC Program in Juneau recently received about 50 Aprica strollers (valued at approximately $200) from the State of Alaska WIC Program, and they will be given away to current SEARHC WIC clients who have a child age 3 or younger. There is a limit of one stroller per family. The strollers will be given away on a first-come, first-served basis, and WIC clients must be present from 1-4 p.m. on March 23 to pick up their strollers. The SEARHC WIC Program will not hold strollers, deliver strollers or ship them to outlying communities. In addition to the stroller giveaway, representatives from the SEARHC Southeast Alaska Child Passenger Safety Program will be available to provide free car seat check-ups for those WIC clients who want to make sure they have the proper-fitting seat for their car model and child. For more information about the stroller giveaway for SEARHC WIC clients, contact the SEARHC WIC Program at 463-4099. For more information about child car seat fitting and how to schedule a fitting with SEARHC in Juneau, contact Health Advocate Lorena Gray of the SEARHC Southeast Alaska Child Passenger Safety Program at 364-4456 or lorena.gray@searhc.org.

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Scott Heaton hired as behavioral health clinician, program manager in Juneau: The SEARHC Behavioral Health Division is pleased to announce the hiring of Scott Heaton, LMFT, as a behavioral health clinician and as program manager for the Juneau Behavioral Health Clinic. Scott holds a Master of Arts degree in marriage and family therapy from Prescott College in Prescott, Ariz. He also has a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, and an Associate of Arts degree from Dixie State College in St. George, Utah. Scott holds a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT) credential. Before moving to Juneau, Scott spent five years counseling young men and women in a youth correctional facility, and he spent 10 years working with youth and their families in a variety of youth treatment programs, including wilderness therapy programs and residential treatment facilities, in southern Utah and northern Arizona. He was clinical director for three programs, and program director at his most recent position, with the Silverado Academy in Utah. He also has several years running his own counseling business (A New View Counseling in Kanab, Utah), and also served as Director of Human Services for the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians in Pipe Springs, Ariz. Scott and his wife, Traci, also developed and authored the positive parenting Accountable Kids Program, http://www.accountablekids.com/, and they have been featured speakers at numerous parenting and education conventions around the country. Until he resigned in February to move to Juneau, Scott was serving as mayor of his hometown of Fredonia, Ariz.

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Parkinson’s Institute, ANMC seek Alaska Native elders for disease study: The Parkinson’s Institute and Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) are conducting a new research study to learn more about what might cause Parkinsonism, a group of diseases that affect the brain. Right now several volunteers who have Parkinsonism are involved with the study, but they researchers need healthy people to serve as a control group. Healthy controls must be Alaska Native or American Indian getting their primary health care in Southeast Alaska through one of the SEARHC clinics, must be free of Parkinson’s disease, must be male age 50 years old or older or female age 70 years old or older, and must not be employed by SEARHC nor work at S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in any capacity. When someone agrees to participate, questions will be asked about their diet, places lived, worked, and subsistence activities. Researchers also will ask to collect a small sample of blood. Information will be kept confidential. The purpose of the study is to help us understand why some Alaska Native people get Parkinson’s disease and others do not. If one completes all sections of the study, they will receive $100 in gift certificates. Anyone interested should leave his or her name and contact information on the Alaska Parkinson’s disease study hotline at 1-800-786-2958, Ext. 430. They also can e-mail AlaskaPS@thepi.org.

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VA, IHS to start pilot project for reimbursement to tribal health centers: The Veterans Administration (VA) and Indian Health Service (IHS) on Thursday, March 15, announced a draft policy that will allow the VA to reimburse tribal health facilities for VA services Alaska Native veterans receive at the tribal facilities. The VA and IHS sent a letter to tribal leaders announcing the draft policy and asking for comment on a proposal for a demonstration project that would put the program in place at selected sites determined by the agencies working with the tribes. “This is good news and progress in our ongoing efforts to allow Alaska Native veterans to receive health care in their own communities if they choose to do so,” Sen. Mark Begich said. “Whether in Nome or Kwigillingok, this new policy will save our veterans the hardship and financial cost of traveling to Anchorage or Seattle for their care.” Begich, a member of the Senate Veterans Committee, has been a strong advocate for this new policy, urging both agencies to come to the table to ensure the best care for rural veterans. Last summer, Begich brought both VA Sec. Eric Shinseki and Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius to Alaska to highlight the needs and challenges of Alaska’s rural veterans. Begich is urging the VA and IHS to expand this demonstration program to cover all rural veterans and more services. Begich and Sec. Shinseki met with veterans and health care providers in Bethel and Kwigillingok to better understand the great distances, costs and transportation hurdles rural veterans face when they have to receive health care at VA facilities. The IHS will host a tribal consultation meeting on April 5 where this new policy will be discussed. At a hearing last month in the Veterans Affairs Committee, Sec. Shinseki told Sen. Begich the VA was close to finalizing and implementing the cost reimbursement agreement. Meanwhile, Begich is continuing to work for passage of his Alaska Heroes Card legislation that will allow all veterans to receive care in their own communities and the facility to be reimbursed by the VA.

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Alaska to start pilot project for the testing of selected beaches for PSP toxin: The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation will be launching a pilot project to monitor a few recreational beaches around the state for the paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxin, according to KFSK-FM radio in Petersburg. It will be the first time the department has tested non-commercially harvested clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, cockles and other filter-feeding bi-valve shellfish for the PSP toxin. The department hopes to work with the local communities it selects for the pilot project, so the communities can help make sure residents know if it’s safe to eat personally harvested shellfish. This has been an especially bad year or two for the PSP toxin in Southeast Alaska. In June there were record levels found in the Ketchikan and Metlakatla areas, and at least two reported PSP cases this winter in the same areas. Two years ago there were two deaths attributed to PSP (one near Juneau, another near Haines). The department has a $400,000 four-year grant from the state legislature to test one beach each from Southeast, Southcentral and Southwest Alaska. Tribal, municipal and borough governments are invited to apply for the program with DEC by April 6. Currently, Alaska is the only state with known PSP toxin outbreaks that doesn’t have a comprehensive statewide testing program. To learn more about the dangers of PSP and how to avoid PSP-tainted shellfish, go to http://searhc.org/publications/featured_stories/2011_06_psp.php and scroll down.

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In two years since becoming law, Affordable Care Act has had an impact in Alaska: President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010. Two years later, the health reform law has continued to provide thousands of Alaska residents with insurance protections, preventive benefits and resources to improve care. While the law won’t take full effect until 2014, Alaskans are seeing many gains from the parts that already have been implemented. The Affordable Care Act forces insurance companies to play by the rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy because of an annual or lifetime limit, or, soon, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition. All Americans will have the security of knowing that they don’t have to worry about losing coverage if they’re laid off or change jobs. And insurance companies now have to cover your preventive care like mammograms and other cancer screenings. The new law also makes a significant investment in state and community-based efforts that promote public health, prevent disease and protect against public health emergencies. For more information on the benefits of the law in Alaska, go to the Alaska Business Monthly magazine website at http://www.akbizmag.com/Alaska-Business-Monthly/March-2012/Two-Years-Later-The-Benefits-of-the-Affordable-Care-Act-for-Alaska/.

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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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2012 Ethel Lund Village Health Occupations Program (VHOP) applications available: Each year, SEARHC selects several Southeast-area Native students interested in health careers for the Ethel Lund Village Health Occupations Program (VHOP), and the students spend a week at S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka learning about different health careers and educational requirements. The health field is growing, which means plenty of job opportunities for people with the right training. Health careers usually offer good pay and employee benefits, as well as the satisfaction of helping others. This year's VHOP session is scheduled for April 24-27, with travel dates being April 23 and 28. Students selected to participate in VHOP receive assistance to cover the travel costs to and from Sitka, housing, meals and some evening entertainment. The application deadline is Friday, March 23. Completed applications may be mailed to Jessika Beam, SEARHC Tribal Recruitment Coordinator, 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. For more information, contact Jessika at 966-8903 in Sitka. Because space is limited, interested students should apply early. Application packets are available at high school offices, at local village corporations or by going to http://www.searhc.org/students/vhop.php.

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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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Charles Clement SEARHC President/CEO