Alaska Health & Social Services Newsletter | March 2019




Commissioner’s Message: Changes at API and new DHSS leadership team members

As most of you are likely already aware, I recently took action to make much-needed improvements at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API). In light of serious patient and staff safety concerns, as well as ongoing investigations by state and federal regulatory agencies, DHSS has contracted with Wellpath Recovery Solutions to provide administrative leadership at API.
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Alaska’s Infant Safe Sleep Project

Women's, Children's and Family Health (WCFH), a section of the Public Health Division, has been working for many years to improve Alaska’s education, outreach and messaging regarding infant safe sleep practices. When the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its infant safe sleep guidelines in 2016 and an analysis of Alaska PRAMS data (Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System) responses demonstrated widespread unsafe infant sleep practices throughout Alaska, WCFH decided to focus on harm reduction messaging for all families.
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Mendenhall Lake Rescue

Scott McCutcheon, DHSS Information Technology Services Manager, was ready and willing to help save a biker who fell through Mendenhall Lake in Juneau this January. On Jan. 7, Scott sprang into action after hearing screams coming from a group gathered around an area on the lake. He had what he needed on him, a brand new rope he bought in November, to assist with the rescue of the submerged individual. With the help of a few people Scott was able to save the biker and his bike! 
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Healthy Alaskans Prepares for HA2030

The state health improvement plan, Healthy Alaskans, led by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, is in the process of developing the Healthy Alaskans 2030 (HA2030) plan. This plan will establish a blueprint that DHSS, ANTHC and other health partners will follow over the next decade to help improve the health of all Alaskans.
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McLaughlin Youth Center Winter Honor Roll

The McLaughlin Youth Center (MYC) held an honor roll assembly for students with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher for the past quarter. Also, students who demonstrated MYC’s school theme of responsibility, effort, attitude, character and honesty (REACH) received REACH awards. Each teacher nominated two students who exemplified the characteristics of REACH for the award. Students who graduated this winter semester were recognized as well. Congratulations to the youth who put in the hard work to graduate, make the honor roll and REACH award winners.
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Alaska on alert for measles due to Washington state outbreak

With recent measles outbreaks as close as Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and our health care partners are working proactively to try to prevent measles in Alaska.
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Flu season picks up in Alaska

Flu activity is high right now in Alaska. It’s better to get your flu shot early, ideally before the end of October, but a flu shot now can still help protect you through the rest of flu season. Even if you’ve already had the flu, a flu shot can potentially protect you from getting a different strain of the flu (if you happen to be that unfortunate)! A flu shot is recommended annually for everyone aged six months or older. This year's vaccine can cut your risk of getting the flu by about 50 percent and make the flu less severe if you do get sick.
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Alaska’s suicide death rate increases

In January, the Section of Epidemiology released two reports detailing Alaska’s suicide rate from 2012-2017, which increased 13 percent over the previous five-year period from 2007-2011 period.
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Suicide is preventable through awareness and education

Suicide continues to be a significant issue in Alaska. Suicide has touched many of our lives and can be difficult to talk about, but it’s important to know that suicide is preventable through increased awareness and education. By talking more openly we can reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide which makes it easier for people to get help.
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DHSS divisions produce many reports, updates, bulletins, press releases and webpages to keep Alaskans informed. Here are some recent publications:

DHSS Annual Report — FY2017-18

Early Dental Visits Increase — Alaska CUBS, 2009–2017

Hepatitis B Screening and Vaccination Recommendations for Health Care Personnel

AKVDRS Suicide Death Update ― Alaska, 2012–2017

Alaska Suicide Toxicology Project Summary, 2015–2017

DHSS Commissioner assumes management of API

WIC Launches New eWIC Cards

Healthy Alaskans 2020 Releases Updated Scorecards

Pain Management, Opioid Use, and Addiction in Alaska
, this course provides one AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) credit (equivalent to one AMA Category 1 Credit) and is presented by Alaska medical experts in public health, pain management and addiction: Jay Butler, M.D., Josh Stream, M.D., and Joshua Sonkiss, M.D.


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