Mankiller Health Center’s dental clinic to close temporarily
STILWELL, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center will be temporarily closing its dental clinic for remodeling starting June 18.
The clinic will resume operations and begin seeing patients again on July 2. Patients who have appointments during the time of temporary closure will be notified and rescheduled.
Fore more information, call 918-696-8800.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – While state leaders remain steadfastly opposed to a Medicaid expansion offered under the federal health care law, some of Oklahoma’s 39 federally recognized Native American tribes are exploring opportunities for a federal waiver that could mean health insurance for about 40,000 low-income uninsured tribal citizens.
Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Nico Gomez said talks are underway about seeking an expansion of the state’s Insure Oklahoma program to include some of the estimated 80,000 Native Americans in Oklahoma without health insurance. Gomez estimated as many as half of those tribal citizens could qualify for the program, depending on where the income threshold is set.
Although still conceptual, Gomez said the idea would involve the tribal citizen paying a portion of the health insurance premium, the tribe paying a portion and the federal government paying the largest part.
“We’re not looking at tapping into any state revenue, not now or in the future,” Gomez said. “Frankly, if it required any state revenue, I’m not sure we’d even be having this conversation.”
Gomez said the proposal was initially discussed the first week of February with tribal representatives, and that he planned to brief members of the Health Care Authority’s governing board during its regular meeting on Feb. 12. Some of the state’s largest tribes, including the Chickasaw and Cherokee nations, are involved in discussions, Gomez said.
Insure Oklahoma provides health coverage to about 18,000 low-income Oklahoma residents, mostly through a program in which the cost of premiums are shared by the state (60 percent), the employer (25 percent) and the employee (15 percent). The state portion of the program is funded through a tax on tobacco sales, but a federal waiver that allows the program to operate has only been approved through the end of the year.
Gomez said expanding the program to include a tribal option could help ensure the federal waiver continues.
Billy James, a 31-year-old University of Oklahoma student and a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, said he wants to have health insurance but can’t afford the premiums.
“I’m trying to hold out as long as I can,” said James, who is finishing his master’s degree and currently unemployed. “I’m kind of scared about not having insurance, but I’ve got to tough it out a little while longer.”
A spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin, a staunch supporter of the Insure Oklahoma program, said the governor is excited about the potential of a tribal expansion.
“We’re particularly excited about the fact that it would not cost the state any tax dollars, which is important as we deal with our current shortfall,” Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said.
Currently, there are about 130,000 Native Americans in the state’s Medicaid program, which is about 16 percent of the overall Medicaid population in Oklahoma.
WASHINGTON – Veterans can now track the status of most of their prescriptions online, thanks to an innovative idea by a Department of Veterans Affairs employee. The new 24/7 service allows online tracking for most prescriptions mailed from the VA Mail Order Pharmacy.
VA employee Kenneth Siehr, a winner of the President’s 2013 Securing Americans Value and Efficiency Award, recommended the Prescription Tracker server. Siehr’s idea focused on the use of technology as a way to save money and improve the services VA provides to its patients.
“Our nation’s veterans deserve a first-class pharmacy and quality customer service as a part of the exceptional health care available from VA,” said Siehr, the national director for Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacies. “It is an honor to be part of serving veterans and to have been recognized for an idea that enhances our services to them.”
More than 57,000 Veterans are currently using the service through My HealtheVet, an online feature that allows veterans to partner with their health care team. The number is expected to grow as VA starts to educate veterans about the new feature. Later in February, the tracking feature will include images of the medication that dispensed. Over the next year, a secure messaging alert will be added so that veterans know when a medication was placed in the mail.
“VA prescription refill online is an excellent example of how one employee looked at the process of VA prescription tracking through the eyes of our veterans and came up with an idea that better serves veterans,” said Interim Under Secretary for Health Carolyn M. Clancy. “This idea is both innovative and transformative, and it is certainly one, when put into action, improves customer service for America’s veterans.”
SALLISAW, Okla. – To provide a sense of comfort for health care patients and their families, Cherokee Nation officials are adding a second prayer feather sculpture to the landscape at a second CN health facility.
In September, Cherokee artists, and father and son, Bill Glass and Demos Glass placed the first of the culturally significant sculptures at the A-Mo Health Center in Salina. Recently, a second sculpture was installed at the Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw.
“Dad and I wanted to do this symbolic ‘Prayer Feather’ for our clinic in Salina because the staff is very friendly and courteous. We also wanted to do this in loving remembrance of my grandmother Jean Justice Glass, who was a trained Army nurse,” Demos said in a September Phoenix article. “I primarily designed the feather, and he had a ceramics portion in it. The ceramic’s got an inset detail with a nice four (crossed) logs motif. It’s just our symbol for prayer.”
The material used was fabricated stainless steel, so it began as a sheet of steel that had to be cut and welded to create the 8-foot, 2-inch tall and 24-inch wide sculptures.
Tribal officials hope the sculptures will give patients and their families calmness as they enter health centers.
“Our first priority is to better the lives of our citizens by continuing to provide them with excellent health care,” Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said. “We are excited to include these beautiful pieces as part of providing an overall positive experience for our patients.”
The hand-constructed, stainless steel sculptures stand more than 8 feet tall. Each sculpture features a unique base. The ceramic base at the A-Mo Health Center represents the creator’s world above and the four logs of the stomp dance fire on earth.
“As Cherokee citizens are undergoing health care, displaying this important part of our culture may bring a sense of peace to what they are experiencing. Feathers symbolize strength and are key instruments in traditional Cherokee medicine and healing,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “I am proud that along with world-class health care, our centers are showcasing Cherokee culture and world-class Cherokee artisans like the Glass family.”
Funding to procure the sculptures was set aside through renovation and new construction projects. In accordance with tribal law, when the price of a renovation or new construction project exceeds $500,000, 1 percent of the cost is set aside for procurement of Cherokee art. The tribe is also planning to emplace a third prayer feather at Sequoyah Schools.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Recently, tribal officials purchased the Clinic in the Woods and the Cascade property located next to the Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital to help place the tribe’s Behavioral Health services in a more centralized location.
One building will be used strictly for the HERO Project, which focuses on children and families, and the other will be directed more toward adult services. The buildings are expected to be open in the spring.
For more than 20 years the tribe’s Behavioral Health has offered several programs, including mental health services, substance abuse treatment and community-based programs promoting mental health.
“I do think it’s a great program,” Connie Davis, CN Health Services executive director, said. “I’ve had personal experiences with my family who has used the Behavioral Health services and I feel that they have been treated very well and have been very successful.”
Behavioral Health also offers programs designed to help prevent substance abuse and other risky behaviors.
“They’re counseling services for thousands of potential diagnosis,” Davis said. “Generally the patient population we see is depressive type of disorders and then we see a lot of substance abuse patients have supports groups for their treatment.”
Behavioral Health currently has 42 licensed providers at 11 health clinics within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdictional boundaries. They are the Tahlequah Health Living Campus, Hastings Hospital, Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee, Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw, Bartlesville Health Center, Will Rogers Health Center in Nowata, Sam Hider Health Center in Jay, A-Mo Health Center in Salina, Jack Brown Treatment Center in Tahlequah, Vinita Health Center and Claremore Indian Hospital.
Outpatient services include individual and family therapy, substance abuse counseling, relapse prevention, parenting skills for disorders of childhood, psychological testing and crisis intervention.
Davis said to be seen at Behavioral Health, one calls the clinic and requests an appointment.
“It’s based on what the patient conveys to the receptionist as what their need is,” Davis said. “If they need to see someone that day then we’re seeing same-day emergencies. If they feel like they need to talk to someone immediately then they can transfer the call to a provider there at the clinic or a health center.”
Davis added that follow-up appointments vary because it’s an individualized treatment plan and it depends on the patient and his or her needs.
If a patient is prescribed medication, a Behavioral Health therapist or a primary care physician refers them. Because psychiatry is a specialty clinic, it allows the Behavioral Health staff to assure that the referrals are appropriate. Primary care physicians are then able to continue medication management. Primary care physicians or Urgent Care may also be able to provide prescriptions.
“You have to see someone with prescriptive authority,” Davis said. “In most centers we try to have someone available if not, then you do have to see your primary care provider.”
Behavioral Health started Project Launch in 2013, which offers training for practitioners to help circulate programs and provide those services to families in Cherokee communities. One program of Project Launch is a three-day training Triple P-Positive Parenting Program, a parenting and family support system designed to prevent and treat behavioral and emotional problems in children and teenagers.
Triple P aims to prevent problems in the family, school and community and to create family environments that encourage children to realize their potential.
On Nov. 3, the CN purchased Clinic in the Woods, which is located near Hastings along Boone Street and the Cascade property, which is located near Northeastern Health System Tahlequah and Hastings.
For more information, email <a href="mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a> or call 918-453-5000 or 1-800-256-0671.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Caring Foundation revealed its new “Caring Van” on Jan. 13 that will serve American Indian citizens statewide.
The “Caring Van” will be coordinated and staffed by the Oklahoma City Area Inter-Tribal Health Board and administered by the Oklahoma Caring Foundation.
“With this new caring van we are expanding our geographic reach, as well as the lifesaving preventive services we offer,” Brooke Townsend, Caring Foundation manager, said. “We are proud to partner with the Oklahoma City Area Inter-Tribal Health Board to serve tribal citizens across the state.”
The vehicle will support the “Oklahoma Caring Van Program” in providing consistent, year-round preventive health services at tribal sites and community events. Staff manning the van will focus on oral health, diabetic screenings and other preventive health services and education for American Indian children and adults.
The “Oklahoma Caring Van Program” has provided nearly 260,000 lifesaving immunizations and is a proud contributor to Oklahoma’s immunization efforts, according to an Oklahoma Caring Foundation press release. The vans help make health care more accessible by eliminating the barriers of inconvenient clinic hours, long wait times, transportation and cost.
The Oklahoma Caring Foundation Inc. is a nonprofit organization administered as an in kind gift by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company. These companies are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.oklahomacaringfoundation.org" target="_blank">oklahomacaringfoundation.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A new program to screen for and treat Hepatitis C within the Cherokee Nation is gaining momentum as it moves to the tribe’s seven health centers from its W.W. Hastings Hospital base.
Dr. Jorge Mera, who is leading the program at Hastings, said he saw the program’s need when he saw the number of patients who had the virus. The virus can cause liver disease or inflammation of the liver, which is the organ that removes harmful chemicals from the blood, fights infection, helps digest food and stores nutrients and energy.
“When I came here in 2012, one of the reasons that I was hired was to take care of the Hepatitis C clinic. I did find that we had a lot of patients, but unfortunately at that time the possibility of treating the patients was not very good because we did not have very good medications,” Mera said. “The medications that we had were effective, but most people couldn’t take them because of the side effects. Even though I knew we had thousands of patients with Hep C, the amount we could treat was less than 10 percent.”
New medications have come on the market, he said, that are safer with less side effects that allow more patients to be treated. Now, he said, he can treat 90 patients out of 100.
Mera said because the number of Hepatitis C patients is in the thousands, he and his nurse assistant reached out to some of the Nation’s seven health clinics to form partnerships to treat that population. The first partnerships were formed with the Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee and the A-Mo Health Center in Salina, and Mera has since met with a health provider and nurses in each health center.
Soon, Hepatitis C clinics also will be available at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell, the Will Rogers Health Center in Nowata, Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw, Sam Hider Health Center in Jay, and the Bartlesville Health Clinic, which will soon transfer to the health facility being built in Ochelata.
Also, Dr. Anna Miller, Amanda Hicks and more staff have been added at Hastings to assist with the program.
Mera said the virus does not always show symptoms, so it is important for people to get screened. A blood test will show if a patient has Hepatitis C.
“So, who needs to be screened? The latest CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendation is for the ‘Baby Boomer’ population, so anybody born between 1945 and 1965 should be screened,” he said. “Anybody who has used intravenous drugs or snorted drugs, even if it was once in their lifetime, should get tested.”
Also, people who received a blood transfusion before 1992, had an organ transplant, have a history of getting non-professional tattoos and men who have had sex with men should get tested.
So far, 300 to 400 patients have been evaluated through the program to determine their “urgent or non-urgent need” for treatment, and about 100 of those patients are receiving treatment to cure the virus. However, Mera said, it’s estimated there are 5,000 Hepatitis C patients within the CN, and the program has detected 900 patients.
“These are just rough numbers, but they’re not far off from the reality. Our goal is to detect the 5,000 and treat the 5,000. It takes a lot of effort and organization,” he said.
The Hepatitis C epidemic peaked in the 1960s and1970s when intravenous drug use was common, Mera said.
“It was not perceived as harmful in those times. This is a chronic infection, so it doesn’t give you problems until 20 or 30 years after you’ve had the infection. Now we’re starting to see those patients with those problems,” he said. “Most of the patients are leading productive lives, but it’s important to detect who needs treatment, so they can continue to have a productive life.”
He said less than 20 percent of patients infected show symptoms. Those people have an acute infection and may feel tired, their skin may turn yellow, may have dark-yellow urine, stomach pain and loss of appetite. Mera said most people who are infected don’t know it, but may experience flu-like symptoms periodically.
“Not everybody will get sick (who are infected), that’s important to say, but about 30 percent of the people infected will develop severe scarring of the liver in 20 to 30 years, which we call cirrhosis,” he said.
Other disorders that may occur are skin disorders, kidney disease and arthritis. However, the liver is most affected.
Mera recommended people wanting to get tested have their primary physicians refer them to him or one of the physicians working with the Hepatitis C program in one of the CN health centers.
If a person knows he or she has Hepatitis C, call Dr. Mera’s office at 918-458-3381 to make an appointment.
“If you don’t know your (Hepatitis C) status, ask your doctor to test you,” Mera said.
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C/" target="_blank">http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C/</a>.