President’s Update for March 30, 2012

In this edition...

In this edition …

NIHB and tribes file amicus brief with Supreme Court over health care: This week (March 26-28), the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In preparation for this debate, the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) joined with 449 tribes and tribal organizations from across the nation to file an amicus brief that asked the Supreme Court to protect the permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) and other Indian-specific provisions included in the ACA. The Indian-specific provisions of the ACA are critical to the delivery of health care services to Indian tribes and their members. The IHCIA, originally enacted in 1976, forms the statutory basis for the delivery of health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives and plays a key role in addressing chronic health disparities in Indian Country. Tribal leaders and advocates worked tirelessly for over a decade seeking the reauthorization of the IHCIA to update and modernize the Indian health care delivery system with much needed services such as expanded cancer screenings and long-term care for the elderly and disabled. Over the past two years, the Indian Health Service and tribes have begun implementing many of these new IHCIA authorities and the other Indian-specific provisions in the ACA. The brief argues that the Indian-specific provisions are separate from other provisions in the ACA and should stand on their own (i.e., are severable) even if the individual mandate provision is held to be unconstitutional. The brief describes Congress's long-standing policy of enacting separate and unique legislation to govern Indian health care services and it provides a detailed analysis of the separate genesis of the IHCIA amendments and other Indian-specific provisions included in the ACA. A determination by the Supreme Court that the entire ACA is unconstitutional would be a significant blow to Indian Country, requiring a new legislative effort to pass the reforms, and delaying the implementation of the vital programs and services that the ACA provisions authorized. Cathy Abramson, Chairperson of the NIHB Board of Directors, states, “NIHB and numerous tribes and tribal organizations decided to file the brief to demonstrate that Indian Country is firmly united to protect and preserve the IHCIA and other Indian-specific provisions in the ACA.” A copy of the amicus brief is available on the NIHB's website, http://www.nihb.org/.

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SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program honored: The SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program this week received word that it will be honored during an awards luncheon at the Alaska Rural Health Conference on April 25 in Anchorage. The WISEWOMAN program will receive the Alaska Rural Health Award for Outstanding Rural Health Program. The Outstanding Rural Health Program award recognizes a community, regional, or statewide program involving one or more health professionals or entities that promotes or facilitates the development of rural health delivery systems. Factors considered include coordination of services, networking, collaboration, innovation in development and implementation and lasting impact of program on populations served. This is a great honor and a well-deserved award for a highly effective program. Led by Litia Garrison and Martha Pearson (who now leads SEARHC’s Community Transformation Grant Program), the WISEWOMAN program has worked with a large team of professionals and other partners throughout the region to help women lower their risk for heart disease. The program is entirely grant funded, and it is an excellent example of the integration of primary care and primary prevention in a clinical setting.

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SEARHC programs represented at 2012 Clan Conference: Wooshteen Kanaxtulaneegí Haa At Wuskóowu (aka, “Sharing Our Knowledge: A Conference of Tlingít Tribes and Clans”) took place this week (March 29-31) in Sitka. This event brings together a diverse group of tribal members, scholars and others, who make presentations on various aspects of Tlingít life, such as language, music, traditional foods, history, law, fisheries and other topics. SEARHC was represented in a couple of the presentations. Renae Mathson of the SEARHC Diabetes Program was part of a panel discussion about digital storytelling. Ken Hoyt and Vivian Mork were part of a panel discussion where they discussed their work with our traditional foods program in Wrangell. Martha Pearson, who leads our new Community Transformation Grant Program, hosted a table with information about how communities can earn sub-grants through her program to institute their own traditional foods program.

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VA offers toll-free Veterans Crisis Line: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) now offers the Veterans Crisis Line. This is a toll-free, confidential resource that connects veterans in crisis and their families and/or friends with qualified, caring VA responders. There are three ways for veterans and their loved ones to access the service — call 1-800-273-8255 (then press 1), chat online at http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/, or by sending a free text message to 83-8255 using your mobile phone. This free, confidential support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also is available to veterans who are not registered with the Department of Veterans Affairs or enrolled in VA health care.

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SEARHC honors National Public Health Week on April 2-8: SEARHC is joining with the American Public Health Association to honor National Public Health Week on April 2-8. National Public Health Week has been celebrated since 1995 as a way to highlight public health achievements and raise awareness of issues important to improving the public’s health in this country. This year’s theme addresses the importance of prevention and wellness through the theme “A Healthier America Begins Today: Join the Movement.” Nearly 1 million Americans die each year from diseases that can be prevented, and even small preventive changes and community initiatives can make a big difference in people being able to live healthier lives. At SEARHC we promote active living and healthy eating, which helps reduce diabetes, heart disease and other health issues. We are working to prevent or limit the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, from prevention in the schools to treatment programs for those who want to stop using. We educate people about how to prevent spreading communicable diseases, such as the flu, colds and other diseases. And we have programs to help people with their mental and emotional well-being, which helps reduce depression, suicidal thinking and other behavioral health issues. To learn more, go to http://www.nphw.org/.

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SEARHC earns 2012 Sitka Green Business Award at platinum level: This week, the SEARHC Sitka campus was honored with a 2012 Sitka Green Business Award at the platinum level by the Sitka Global Warming Group and Sustainable Sitka. This is the third year SEARHC has been honored with a Sitka Green Business Award, and the second straight year we have been honored at the platinum level. In 2010, the first year of the program, we were at the silver level. For these awards, the Sitka Global Warming Group and Sustainable Sitka developed a list of 30-40 green practices, such as recycling, providing covered bike parking, energy conservation, composting, supporting local foods, having a Green Team, etc. Businesses were honored at the bronze level (1-3 green practices), silver (4-6), gold (7-9) and platinum levels (10 or more green practices). In earning the 2012 award, SEARHC was honored for 21 green practices. For more info about the awards, go to http://www.sitkaglobalwarming.org/green_businesses.html.

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SEARHC hosts brown bag lunch with New Zealand health care workers: On Wednesday, March 28, SEARHC was fortunate to have five New Zealanders who work in health care visit Sitka on a Sitka Rotary Exchange Program. Staff was invited to an informal brown bag lunch to learn about the New Zealand health care system, and specifically what these providers do to bridge disparities in the care of children. Our visiting professionals were Gillian Cossey, general manager, surgical and ambulatory care system; Donna Bennett, pediatric physical therapist; Laura Barkwill, clinical psychologist; Kerry McConachie, RN-midwife; and Sarah-Jane Westbrooke, registered dietitian.

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TW Hull named clinical nurse educator: Torane \"TW\" Hull officially became clinical nurse educator on Monday, March 26. TW has been employed as an emergency room/critical care services staff RN with SEARHC since last year, but for the past two months has also been covering the role as acting nurse educator. TW will be based at S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, reporting to Director of Nursing Lynn Gras, but we are striving to link all SEARHC sites together for consortium-wide focus on nursing education. With that goal in mind, TW will continue to reach out to our communities and occasionally travel around the Southeast. He already spent time in Haines, both exploring their educational needs and also facilitating SIM training with Mike Motti; and this week he and Mike will travel to Prince of Wales Island. TW is highly qualified and well rounded with a strong clinical knowledge base. He has a Masters in Nursing as well as a Masters in Public Administration. TW has been an educator for several years and built an online comprehensive NCLEX (National Council Licensure EXamination) review for RNs and LPNs. His nursing background also includes working in the ER and teaching at a nursing school. TW also worked for several years on the pre-hospital side as a volunteer fire fighter, a member of a technical search and rescue team and teaching various forms of outdoor rescue.

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March 25-31 is Health Information Professionals Recognition Week: March 25-31 is Health Information Professionals (HIP) Recognition Week, and this year’s theme is “Managing Health Information for Life.” The celebration, sponsored by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), used to be known as Health Information and Technology Week. To raise greater awareness and celebrate the evolution of health information professionals, the dates for HIP week were moved from the fall to the spring to coincide with AHIMA’s Hill Day, an event where AHIMA members converge on Capitol Hill to voice the importance of advancing HIM. HIP Week is a wonderful opportunity for professionals to showcase the benefits of their profession, working collectively to deliver quality healthcare through quality information. Managing health information is vital as new technology, funding, and policies continue to evolve. Because of the numerous complexities within the current healthcare landscape (for example, meaningful use, ICD-10, regional extension centers, privacy and security, health information exchange, and quality measures) the training and skill-sets of health information professionals are required for the efficient organization and management of health information. It is because of these professionals that the healthcare industry will continue to grow and advance in patient care and safety. To provide greater public outreach for HIP Week, AHIMA will again partner with the Canadian Health Information Management Association to promote the shared goals of both organizations. At SEARHC, HIM staff were honored with a pizza lunch party on Tuesday and dessert on Thursday.

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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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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