President’s Update for May 21, 2011

In this edition...

In this edition … Physician assistants hired for Hydaburg and Kake clinics: SEARHC recently hired two physician assistants to fill a pair of midlevel provider positions that had been open for awhile in our Hydaburg and Kake clinics. Jim Lontine was hired as a midlevel provider and clinic supervisor for the Hydaburg Health Center. He spent the last 23 years as a physician assistant with the Island Pond Health Center in Island Pond, Vt., and before that he held several urgent and emergent care positions, was a U.S. Army medic and a Peace Corps health assistant. Lori Trout will be a physician assistant at the Kake Health Center, where she previously served as a temporary provider from October to December 2010. She brings a wealth of experience to SEARHC, including time working overseas. Back to top Alaska Tribal Health Compact final negotiations: This week the co-signers to the Alaska Tribal Health Compact held final negotiations with the Indian Health Services. This year’s negotiations were different from past years due to the uncertainty of the Federal IHS budget (see next topic). There was great concern that the IHS director did not appoint a ratifier for these negotiations. The request for a ratifier is a significant issue amongst the co-signers. There were several minor language changes and updates on open issues between the IHS and co-signers. The co-signers had a lengthy discussion on the Alaska Tribal Shares Methodology formula. The formula utilizes recurring base program funds, census, and the number of Tribes served to divide funds that were previously held at IHS headquarters and at the Alaska Area Office prior to compacting our own services. Part of the formula is dependent on the most recent census. The results show that, while our region did not have an overall loss in population, there were significant increases in Alaska Natives people living in Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. With all the changes in population, our funding agreement will be adjusted downward by less than 2/10ths of a percent as a result of the formula. The co-signers and IHS staff quickly completed the work of the language and concluded the negotiations two days early. Back to top IHS funds update: We have waited for several months as Congress adopted a budget for Federal Fiscal Year 2011 (FFY2011). Congress did finally strike a deal just over a month ago, but SEARHC still has not received its lump sum compact funds. Instead, we received small payments since October 2010. These payments are usually based on a prorated amount of the compact on FFY2010 levels. The prorated amounts range from just a few days to two months. The latest payment amount ended on Sunday, May 15. The current holdup is that the Indian Health Service (IHS) had to submit a spending plan to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Once OMB approves an IHS spending plan that is consistent with the Congressional budget, funds will flow to the area offices for payment to the Tribal Health system. In an ideal situation, this would happen only once throughout the year in early October. I believe this will be the ninth or tenth time we have received partial payments. These partial payments dramatically increase the costs of doing business for SEARHC and create rework for everyone involved. The delayed payments also come long after we have begun a new period of operations that are not covered by current compact payments. We understand that a spending plan was sent to OMB by IHS. We are anxious to see exactly where the increases to IHS will be placed in the agency’s budget. There was a 0.43 percent increase to the budget with a 0.20 percent across-the-board rescission to all non-defense programs. When we have more information, we will share the information in a weekly report. Back to top WISEFAMILIES Through Customary and Traditional Living projects show progress: The SEARHC WISEFAMILIES through Customary and Traditional Living projects in Wrangell (led by Tammi Meissner) and Kake (led by Georgie Davis-Gastelum) have shown positive results this year. We now have data to show increases in the intake of 100-percent fruit juice, cups of fruit and vegetables. We also saw 19.3 more minutes of physical activity on active days. For the seven-month period from Oct. 1, 2010, to March 30, 2011, we had more than 2,000 instances of participation in 64 events/activities (including people who attended multiple events, and we’re not into the busy summer season yet). The programs have a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Searhc-Traditional-Foods-Wisdom/199006763446864, where participants can share experiences and provide photos. This programming is accessible to everybody in the community, and we have extensive contributions from volunteers. For example, in FY 2010 there were 1,109 in-kind/volunteer hours donated to Wrangell activities. In Kake, they organized a “Choose Respect” walk to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault, and 168 people (out of a community of 500) participated. So far seven communities have been sharing knowledge at each others’ camp activities (Kake, Wrangell, Angoon Klukwan, Sitka, Juneau and Cordova). When the programs started in 2008, the goal was 25 percent participation by the Native families in Wrangell and Kake. Since Oct. 1, 2010 (not including the busy summer season), 43 percent of the Native families in Wrangell have participated in camp activities, and 78 percent have benefited in the form of harvested food for elders. In Kake, the participation has been 65 percent of Native families. We have found there is a lot of power in how traditional foods and story-telling engage Native people in our region. Many of the participants have produced digital stories about their experiences, and these stories can be viewed at http://digitalstoryexamples.blogspot.com/. Back to top Hike and Harvest program a big hit in Wrangell: SEARHC's Hike and Harvest program in Wrangell is underway, increasing people's physical activity and nutrition Alaska-style. Community members hike in beautiful places around Wrangell and harvest the new greens that pop up each spring. Some of the local foods people are harvesting include fiddlehead ferns, salmonberry shoots, thimbleberry shoots, deer heart leaves, devil's club tips, spruce tips, Labrador tea, berry blossoms and leaves, and dandelion shoots. As program coordinator Vivian Mork says, “Hiking in our beautiful forests and eating local foods is not only healthy, it is a whole lot of fun.” Back to top Restrictions lifted on Quyana House meal cards: Good news for our patients traveling to Anchorage, the restrictions on the Quyana House meal cards have been removed. As of May 18, Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) guests are able to purchase any and all items in the ANMC cafeteria without restriction. The dollar amount for the meal cards is $25 per day for those people staying at the Quyana House, and $18 for those staying at Quality Suites since those guests receive a complimentary breakfast at the hotel. Back to top ANHB seeks Native art donations for National Indian Health Board conference: The Alaska Native Health Board (ANHB) is partnering with the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) to host the 28th Annual NIHB Consumer Conference, “Native Heroes in Health and Hope,” which takes place on Sept. 26-30 at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage. To prepare for the conference, ANHB is seeking donations of Alaska Native art that will be used to trademark the conference. The winning art will be used to brand conference items, such as registration materials, conference bags, banners and packets. In addition, the artist receives national recognition through conference materials and a full page of background information in the attendee packets. Art submissions should support the conference theme of “Native Heroes in Health and Hope,” but it is not required. All forms of art are welcome, including photos, beadwork, carvings, paintings, etc. The deadline for art submissions is Friday, June 10, at the selection will be announced on July 8. To submit art, mail it to Alaska Native Health Board (ANHB), 1840 Bragaw St., Suite 220, Anchorage, Alaska 99508, or e-mail it to anhb@anhb.org. Back to top Help Wrangell win a fruit tree orchard: SEARHC’s Healthy Wrangell Project has been working with the Healthy Wrangell Coalition this year to increase community access to fruits and vegetables. One idea that took root is planting fruit trees all over the island. The Wrangell Medical Center, one of the coalition partners, has taken on the fruit tree project by entering the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation’s Communities Take Root Program where communities can win a fruit tree orchard if they get enough votes. To help Wrangell have a chance to win its fruit trees, please spend a minute or two to vote every day through the end of the first round of ballots on Tuesday, May 31. To vote, go to http://www.communitiestakeroot.com/, register to vote (see Register in the upper left corner), then click on the Wrangell Medical Center on the map (the only red dot in Southeast Alaska) and go to the page to submit your vote. Back to top Regards, Roald