ASHNHA | Alaska State Hospital & Nursing Home Association

November 26, 2014

ASHNHA Connection

Your Link to News from the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association

A Message from our CEO…

While it’s not yet the New Year, next week will bring a new Governor to Juneau. Governor-elect Bill Walker and Lt. Governor-elect Byron Mallott will take office at noon on Dec. 1. With changes in administration come challenges – filling staff roles, getting new staff oriented to their jobs and the issues they face, preparing for the start of the legislative session a short month away, and the list goes on.

With new administrations also come people with different perspectives on issues. Medicaid expansion is one of those issues that will get a fresh look. In fact, the new Governor has said that Medicaid expansion will be one of the first actions he takes. This means a new conversation in the Legislature and the public about benefits, costs and the value to the state’s economy. It will likely also bring conversations about the Medicaid program and what we can do to make it more sustainable.

While we have challenging fiscal and policy issues ahead of us, within these challenges are opportunities. Let’s start the conversation.

- Becky Hultberg, President/CEO


Behavioral Health Committee Re-Engages

The behavioral health needs of patients have a significant impact on hospitals and nursing homes in Alaska. A round table discussion was held during the ASHNHA Annual Conference to discuss behavioral health challenges with key stakeholders.The group identified the need to select priorities and develop a clear scope with designated resources to begin to have an impact.
The first step of the process is to reconstitute the ASHNHA Behavioral Health Committee as a regular, standing committee.The following ASHNHA facilities have agreed to commit a staff person to be part of the Committee:

  • Alaska Psychiatric Institute
  • Providence Alaska Medical Center
  • North Star Behavioral Health
  • Central Peninsula Hospital
  • Fairbanks Memorial Hospital
  • Cordova Community Medical Center
In addition, Bill Hogan with the University of Alaska has expressed a willingness to help the group identify and scope a project. Jeff Jessee, with the Mental Health Trust, has also indicated the trust would be supportive of the Committee.Tom Chard, with the Alaska Behavioral Health Association has expressed a willingness to participate in our discussions.
The Behavioral Health Committee will hold the first meeting in December and likely meet monthly while the group works to identify goals and outcomes.   Some of the issues we expect to discuss include:
  • Meeting the needs of older adults with behavioral problems and dementia.
  • Recruiting skilled behavioral health workers.
  • Examining continuum of care issues.
  • Exploring how to overcome challenges with fragmented and uncoordinated care.
  • Increasing support for smaller facilities that may not have the experience or comfort level necessary to deal with patients with BH issues who are showing up.
  • Developing stronger connections with the tribal system.
  • Integrating behavioral health with primary care.
  • Strengthening collaboration with State behavioral health authorities and resources
If you are interested in learning more about the Committee, contact Jeannie Monk at

Transition teams identify priorities

More than 250 Alaskans met last weekend as part of the Walker-Mallott transition team to develop recommendations in 17 priority areas. Members of the health care subgroup included co-chairs Valerie Davidson and Jeff Cook along with John Cullen, Shirley Holloway, Jeff Jessee, Bruce Lamoureaux, Myra Munson, Karen Perdue, Elizabeth Ripley, Andy Teuber, Lynn Van Vactor, Becky Hultberg and Aron Wolf. Nancy Merriman and Sandra Heffern were also named as part of the group but did not participate in the sessions. Over two days, the group went through a facilitated process to identify five priority areas, establish what success would look like for each of the priority areas and identify actions to achieve success and barriers to accomplishing that success.

The five priority areas identified were:

  • Medicaid expansion (easily the top priority, although they weren’t ranked),
  • Behavioral health,
  • Health care cost and affordability,
  • Addressing the delivery of safety net services and
  • Administrative and management system improvements (MMIS, etc.).
Significant discussion occurred in the breakout sessions around Medicaid expansion and the need to implement expansion immediately, while the federal government covers 100% of the expansion cost. This could provide the state with short-term budget relief. Other benefits to the state include the economic "shot in the arm" that expansion would bring. In the conference's opening session, Northern Economics' Jonathan King noted that the state is likely headed for recession and Medicaid is one of the few economic bright spots on the horizon.

News from the Alaska Subspecialty Nursing Consortium

Last week the Perioperative Nurse Interns were in Anchorage for didactic training at local hospitals.  DeAnn Wittrock, perioperative nurse educator at ANMC, provided a majority of the training.  Interns worked hands-on with orthopedic equipment.  Barb Welte, nurse educator at PAMC, taught the nurses about Cardio/Thoracic Surgery. Peggy Robinson and Gail Augdahl, nurse educators at Alaska Regional, demonstrated the use of the Da Vinci equipment in the OR.

New cohorts of nurse interns will begin for both Periop and Perinatal on Monday, February 16, 2015.  If your facility would like to place interns in either specialty, please contact Dennis Murray at the ASHNHA offices (646-1444) or .  

Nurse Educator, DeAnn Wittrock, with Nurse Interns at ANMC.

UAA to begin a physical therapy assistant program in January 2015

After many years of ASHNHA’s advocacy and support, UAA has received approval from CAPTE, the national accreditation agency for physical therapy, to begin training physical therapy assistants. LeeAnne Carrothers, director of the program, indicates that 12 students will begin in January. LeeAnne will brief the CNO/DON’s at their December 5th meeting in Anchorage. Congratulations to the University of Alaska for their hard work in getting this program started.  Alaska hospitals and nursing homes have been anxiously awaiting the accreditation approval.

Resources to help hospitals enroll consumers in coverage

The open enrollment period for the 2015 plan year began on November 15, 2014 and continue through February 15, 2015.  Hospitals can play a leading role in connecting patients with quality, affordable health care. The Marketplace offers quality health plans and financial help to pay for the cost of insurance premiums.  In Alaska, approximately 88% of those who enrolled in health insurance through the Marketplace, qualified for financial support.  Consumers can only access premium subsidies and support for out-of-pocket costs (such as co-pays and deductibles) by enrolling through the Marketplaces.  Enroll by December 15 for coverage beginning January 1, 2015.

Starting this year, if people do not have health care coverage or apply for an exemption they could face a tax penalty.

Information and resources to help hospital staff support patients during the open enrollment period is available on the ASHNHA website.  Click here for more information.

Good news from Alaska hospitals and nursing homes

  • SEARHC received a telemedicine grant from USDA for $284,424 to provide healthcare for more than 16,200 clients from 12 clinics in remote Alaska locations
  • Cordova Community Medical Center will receive  $250,000 from the Rasmuson Foundation to purchase a CT scanner. Click here to learn more about recently announced Rasmuson Foundaton awards.
  • Phil Hofstetter, the Vice President of Hospital Services at Norton Sound Regional Hospital in Nome was recently featured in a Wall Street Journal article. Hofstetter has biked the 1000 mile Iditarod course twice.  Click here for the story.

Upcoming events and educational opportunities

Jay Butler, MD ANTHC and Thaddus Wilkerson, PharmD ANTHC, will discuss antibiotic stewardship as guests on KSKA's weekly health podcast,  "Line One Your Health Connection" with Dr. Thad Woodard. Together they will provide an overview of antibiotic resistance and discuss what the healthcare industry and the public can do to address this global health threat.

The program will take place on December 1 
from 2-3 pm. You can listen to the call and join in the discussion by following this link and clicking on "Radio Streaming" at the upper left corner of the page.
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