President’s Update for March 2, 2012

In this edition...

In this edition …

SEARHC leaders meet with legislators, governor’s staff and tribal leaders: On Monday, Feb. 27, SEARHC Board Chair Jolene Edenshaw and I went to the State Capitol to meet with lawmakers. Our main topic of discussion was to advocate for the bill that has an additional $1.9 million in funds for the Hoonah Health Center. Lawmakers seemed supportive, and the Legislature’s budget will be announced soon. If all goes well, we hope to send the Hoonah clinic construction project out to bid this spring. On Tuesday, Jolene and I attended the Tlingít and Haida Luncheon that also served as an introduction for tribal leadership and their roles. We met with leaders from Sealaska, Tlingít and Haida, the Sealaska Heritage Institute and the governor’s office. This was a good chance to meet with leaders from our partner organizations.

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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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March is National Nutrition Month: March is National Nutrition Month, and this year The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) encourages you to “Get Your Plate in Shape.” Each March, the Academy encourages Americans to return to the basics of healthy eating. This year's National Nutrition Month theme encourages consumers to ensure they are eating the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy each day. This year’s theme also builds on the USDA's MyPlate, which in June 2011 replaced MyPyramid as the government's primary food group symbol — the easy-to-understand visual cue that helps consumers adopt healthy eating habits consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. MyPlate divides the plate into four sections: fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins, with a glass representing dairy products. MyPlate shows consumers how they can incorporate the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines into every meal. People should make sure half of their plate is fruits and vegetables, and half their grains are whole grains. They also should switch to fat-free or low-fat milk, limit their salt, and reduce their intake of solid fats and added sugars. To learn more about National Nutrition Month, go to http://www.eatright.org/nnm/.

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National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to learn about risks, screening: March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and everybody is encouraged to learn more about this disease. 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. But colorectal cancer also is one of the easiest cancers to prevent with a healthy lifestyle and appropriate screening. Colorectal cancer usually is found in people age 50 or older, but younger people also can get it. The risk for colorectal cancer is higher for people who are obese or eat diets with lots of red meat or processed foods. Heavy alcohol use, tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke also can increase the risk. The early stages of colorectal cancer have few symptoms, which makes screening more important. Precancerous polyps can be detected and removed during screening, before they become cancer. All adults age 50 or older should talk with their medical provider about screening, and so should younger adults who have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or bowel diseases. To learn more about colorectal cancer, contact your local SEARHC medical provider or contact the SEARHC Colorectal Cancer Screening Program at 966-8541.

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New behavioral health clinician hired for our Craig office: Steve Guevara, Psy.D, has been hired as a behavioral health clinician for SEARHC’s Craig Behavioral Health Office in the Thibodeau Mall. He will work with the SEARHC Community Family Services program and will complement the services provided by the behavioral health clinicians at the SEARHC Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock. Steve earned a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology from the American School of Professional Psychology/Argosy University campus in Chicago. He also holds a Master of Arts degree in clinical psychology from The Illinois School of Professional Psychology (which later became part of Argosy University). Steve recently completed a post-doctorate internship with the Institute for Child and Family Health in Miami, Fla. He also completed a practicum with the Family Service and Mental Health Center of Cicero, Ill., while he was studying for his doctorate. Steve’s health interests include neurology, psychoanalysis and child/family psychology.

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Remember to change your smoke alarm batteries when you change your clocks: When you set your clocks forward on Sunday, March 11, remember to change and test the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors — and remind your friends, family and neighbors to do the same. Making sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order takes just a moment, but is the best defense your family has against the devastating effects of a home fire.

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ANTHC, IHS and Johns Hopkins University offer free testing for sexually transmitted diseases: In 2010, Alaska had the country’s highest rate for chlamydia and second-highest rate for gonorrhea. Recently, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), Indian Health Service and Johns Hopkins University teamed up to provide Alaskans with a free at-home testing kit for sexually transmitted diseases. Alaskans can order the free kits, and self-collect their samples, which they then mail to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore for testing of Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Trichomonas vaginalis. To order the free kits, go to http://www.iknowmine.org/ or http://www.iwantthekit.org/ or call 1-866-575-5504. Unfortunately, these free testing kits do not test for HIV/AIDS or syphilis, which last week the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services HIV/STD Program reported were having recent outbreaks (HIV in the Fairbanks area, syphilis in the Anchorage area). Most of the HIV and syphilis cases involved men who had sex with other men, including people they met online, and some men had symptoms of both diseases. Everyone with risk factors for HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases should be tested and use appropriate precautions before having sex. Testing sites for HIV and other STDs can by found at http://www.hivtest.org/, and SEARHC’s larger clinics also can perform tests.

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SEARHC encourages prevention during cold and flu season: As the cold and flu season hits full swing, SEARHC wants to remind its patients there are several ways to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory illnesses. So far Alaska’s flu activity this year is below the national rate, but many communities have been hit by colds or the crud. Following these healthy habits can help protect you and your family from getting the flu, colds and other diseases — get vaccinated, cover your cough, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home if you are sick and practice good health habits. Please note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now lists Alaska Natives and American Indians with the flu vaccine priority group for those people at high risk for flu-related complications due to high rates of complications during last year’s flu outbreak. Updated information on the seasonal flu, including more ways people can prevent the spread of the flu and colds, can be found online at http://www.flu.alaska.gov/ (state site) or at http://www.flu.gov/ (national site).

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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. SEARHC and the Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) share an Anchorage-based patient advocate, who serves SEARHC and KANA patients receiving care at the Alaska Native Medical Center (the SEARHC/KANA position currently is under recruitment and patients can call the Alaska Native Medical Center Customer Experience Department at 729-3990 until it is filled). 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 patient advocate at 729-3992 (942-5867, cell).

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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 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