Elder customer-owners lead by example receiving COVID-19 vaccine.

Wisdom of Elders serves as one of the integral foundational guides for the advancement and prosperity of all Alaska Native cultures. The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines coupled with the wisdom of Elders has contributed to a healthy start to a new chapter in the COVID-19 journey.

Alaska has unique seasons that include the midnight sun shining late in the night, captivating colors of autumn leaves falling to the ground, and the crisp mornings of winter. As the daylight decreases, it brings the bite of subzero temperatures and an increase in stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These changes can cause an increase in the diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder and other mental health challenges.

By SCF Public Relations

The holidays are traditionally a time when special memories are made as families and communities come together. With COVID-19 still active in many areas, including across Alaska, it is vital to try new traditions to help keep your friends, families, and communities safe. Families are tasked with finding new ways to share holiday cheer while remaining diligent in efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus.

“Now is the time to hunker down, keep within our households, be vigilant about mask wearing and distancing, and be safe at work and at home,” said Southcentral Foundation interim President/CEO April Kyle.

To minimize occurrences of the virus spreading to loved ones, it is best to celebrate this holiday season only with household members for in-person activities and to include others in your celebrations virtually by phone or video chat. Avoid hosting holiday parties, potlucks, and or gatherings that are not within your household.
“Celebrating holidays will take creative, virtual approaches this year since we are not able to have in-person parties, potlucks, and gatherings,” said Kyle.

Despite eagerness to spend time with friends and family as holiday plans are made, considerations should be taken for the associated risks.

“One idea is to gather virtually and share three or four things you are grateful for,” said SCF’s Clinical Director of Employee and Community Support KJ Worbey. “These can be small in size but big in meaning – hearing the laughter of a child playing, witnessing a moment of beauty in nature, enjoying a favorite recipe. This can generate positive feelings that can be savored. It is also a reminder that peaceful and joyful moments surround us when we stop to see them.”

While finding new ways to create holiday memories, remember to:

  • Physical distance at least 6 feet from others when possible.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask in common areas and in public.
  • Practice frequent hand hygiene.
  • Wipe down high-touch and shared surfaces.
  • Limit social contacts and keep your bubble small.
  • Limit public gatherings.

The containment efforts do work, and it is very important they continue. Working together, we can decrease the spread of COVID-19 and keep Alaskans healthy.

“Staying connected with family and friends is more important than ever,” said Worbey. “Strong relationships are a key component of resilience, and so is gratitude.”
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or need to contact your provider, if in Anchorage call (907) 729-3300.

By Senior Public Relations Specialist Brandy Gallagher

Having accessible health care is particularly important during these uncertain times. Eklutna Community Clinic and C’eyiits’ Hwnax Life House Community Health Center offer primary care and preventative care services to all members of the community. Establishing health care in your nearby community has many benefits including reduced travel-related costs and an opportunity for whole-family care.

These community health centers provide services for people of all ages, insured and uninsured, beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries. Qualified Alaska Native and American Indian customer-owners receive services with no out-of-pocket expense and non-beneficiaries’ services are charged on a sliding fee scale based on household income, size, and ability to pay.

Eklutna Community Clinic is conveniently located off the Glenn Highway in Eklutna between Eagle River and Palmer. This community health center offers primary care services, COVID-19 testing, flu vaccinations, and radiology services. Southcentral Foundation partnered with the Native Village of Eklutna to expand medical services and provide quality health care services to the Chugiak and Eklutna area. To register to receive services at Eklutna Community Clinic, call (907) 688-6031.

C’eyiits’ Hwnax Life House Community Health Center is located at the Ahtnahwt’aene’ Nay’dini’aa den Gathering Place (Ahtna People Chickaloon Place). The building also houses the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council’s Health and Social Services Department. This community health center offers primary care, behavioral health, select pharmacy options, scheduled specialty care, COVID-19 testing, health education, flu vaccinations, nutrition counseling, and well-woman services. To register for services at C’eyiits’ Hwnax Life House Community Health Center, call (907) 631-7665.

Primary and preventative health care should be a priority at all ages, even during a pandemic. Community health centers aim to help you and the people you love stay healthy. These clinics provide timely, affordable, quality, and convenient health care. All insurances are accepted, including Medicaid and Medicare.

By SCF Public Relations

In what state health officials are calling a turning point in the pandemic, the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Alaska. Southcentral Foundation received an initial allotment of the Pfizer vaccine with the Moderna vaccine expected to arrive soon.

Following state and federal guidelines, SCF has prioritized vaccinations for frontline health care providers and Elder customer-owners who are at high risk of infection. Primary care teams will be reaching out to Elder customer-owners who are at high risk to schedule appointments for vaccinations. Additional vaccines will be arriving in the coming months and eventually, all customer-owners who want to receive a vaccine will have an opportunity.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a second vaccination dose (17 – 21 days later for Pfizer, and 28 days later for Moderna vaccines). SCF care teams will schedule a second vaccination appointment during the initial vaccine appointment. Receiving only the first dose will not result in long-term immunity. It is critical to receive both doses and receive them from the same location. Given the limited quantity of vaccines, customer-owners are urged to return for the second dose.

The COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. It takes a few weeks for the body to build up protection from the vaccine. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so you should continue to take recommended precautions to avoid infection.

There are side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine, and most are mild and short-term. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose. Although you may get some protection from the first dose, having the second dose will give you the best protection against the virus.

Common side effects include having pain and tenderness at the injection site; feeling tired; headache; general aches; or mild flu-like symptoms. While feeling feverish is not uncommon for two to three days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection.

Can I catch COVID-19 from the vaccine?
You cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine but it is possible to have caught COVID-19 and not realize you have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of any of the following:

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia).

Although a mild fever can occur within a day or two of vaccination, if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home, and arrange to have a test.

If I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, can I still pass the COVID-19 infection to others?
The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 infection, and both vaccine doses will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. At this time, we do not yet know whether it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus, but we do expect it to reduce this risk.

With COVID-19 vaccinations becoming available, now is not the time to let your guard down. Continue to maintain physical distancing, wear a face mask, wash your hands frequently, and avoid gatherings, even after receiving the vaccine.

For more information, please call your primary care provider with questions.

By SCF Public Relations

Southcentral Foundation’s Family Wellness Warriors Initiative hosted virtual learning events to raise awareness for National Domestic Violence Awareness and Action Month. The virtual commencement featured Alaska Native cultural performances and special guest speakers Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Amanda Price and Alaska Native Heritage Center Executive Director Emily Edenshaw.

Activities included webinars, radio interviews on KNBA, and traditional storytelling to break cycles of abuse for the next generation. The webinar discussion explored how latest data and evaluation outcomes show development of protective factors and the reduction of risk factors associated with domestic violence and child abuse.

FWWI seeks to address the devastating problems of domestic violence, abuse, and neglect in the Alaska Native Community. Its purpose is to equip organizations and individuals to effectively address the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical effects of domestic violence, abuse, and neglect.

Click below to hear the KNBA radio interviews focused on encouraging healthy lifestyle choices and relationships.

  1. A Template for Raising the Next Generation

    Listen to the values and stories passed down to a young girl growing up in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region. These stories highlight the Yup’ik value of raising children with positive encouragement.

  2. Walking Soft

    Hear the story of a girl’s experience as she walked on the soft tundra with her Lakota grandfather. She remembers the Indigenous values of connecting softly with others, discovering healing on the other side of our stories, and how our own healing whispers hope and promise to the next generation.

  3. When He Remembered He Was a Warrior

    Listen to the story of a Tlingit Elder who shares his journey of healing from addiction and how community helped him find his inner warrior.

  4. She Will Become the Words That You Speak

    Hear the story of an Alaska Native woman, who remembered the wisdom of her Cup’ik grandmother. Her grandmother’s words helped the young woman find hope amid her own struggles.

Receiving a flu vaccine this fall may be more important than ever. The vaccine not only reduces your risk of getting the flu, but protects children, Elders, and those who are most vulnerable. The flu vaccine may also help prevent being infected with both COVID-19 and influenza at the same time, which may cause severe illness or death for those who are at a higher risk. Getting vaccinated also helps to preserve health care resources.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses for everyone 6 months of age and older. The flu vaccination can help prevent you from getting the flu or reduce the severity and duration if you do. Practicing hand hygiene, covering your cough, wearing a mask, and physical distancing from others with the flu may help slow the spread but the best way to fight the flu is to get vaccinated.

The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Getting vaccinated too early (for example, in July or August) is likely to be associated with reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season, particularly among older adults.

“Flu vaccines are safe and are the best protection to prevent getting sick from the flu, and to help protect others. Now is the best time to get a flu vaccination,” said SCF Senior Medical Director of Quality Assurance Dr. Donna Galbreath.

Though they are different types of viruses, influenza and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses and may present with similar symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, and sore muscles. If you are experiencing symptoms or have questions, contact your provider.

The CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading this fall and winter. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever to help prevent the possibility of getting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

Protect and respect everyone in the community this flu season by getting the flu vaccine and maintaining immunization schedules, wearing a mask, and practicing safety measures. Working together, we can keep Alaskans healthy.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, flu, or need to contact your provider, if in Anchorage call (907) 729-3300. See below for a listing of Rural Anchorage Service Unit facilities and phone numbers. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.

By Senior Public Relations Specialist Brandy Gallagher

Southcentral Foundation has completely remodeled the prosthodontic clinic on the Alaska Native Health Campus. Continuing its commitment to quality and providing the best care for customer-owners, this dental specialty focuses on diagnosing and treating conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth.

The state-of-the-art facility, slated to open this fall, will provide prosthodontic services including crowns, bridges, implant-supported restorations, complete and partial dentures, and complete mouth reconstruction.

The new clinic is a tailored space, designed to enhance customer-owner experiences. Four new dental rooms were added to accommodate equipment needed for prosthodontic dentistry. The spacious rooms are also furnished with new dental chairs and equipment to improve customer-owner experience in prosthodontics. Multiple kiosk stations are located throughout the clinic, and each exam room is equipped with two computers to streamline documentation. The new configuration will improve customer-owner education related to treatment plans.

SCF’s new prosthodontic clinic will also include a dental lab incorporating technology to enhance denture and crown services. The on-site lab will reduce the wait time for customer-owners to have restorative work completed by utilizing new, faster scanner technology that provides enhanced images from which the lab makes dentures.

The design process for the new clinic at the Fireweed Mountain Building started last fall, and construction began in December. The remodel is one of many steps SCF has recently taken to accomplish its corporate goal of commitment to quality. Orthodontic services previously offered at the Fireweed Mountain Building are now located at the Children’s Dental Clinic in the Dr. Katherine and Dr. Kevin Gottlieb Building.
For more information about the prosthodontic clinic and available services, call Fireweed Mountain Building Dental Clinics at (907) 729-2000.

By Public Relations Specialist Connie Irrigoo

Choosing to quit tobacco is one of the best choices you can make for your overall health. Many people like customer-owner Karen Stephan have quit, and so can you. Keep in mind that quitting tobacco is a process. It may take some people several tries before they quit completely, others may quit on their first try. Every step toward quitting is a success.
You can learn the skills needed to quit tobacco for life. Southcentral Foundation tobacco educators can provide you with the tools and resources to help you be successful. If you have any questions, talk to your health care provider or a tobacco educator at SCF.

Stephan is originally from the Colorado Indian Tribe in Parker, Arizona; she lives in Anchorage with her husband, Ray. She remembered seeing and reading information about the Quit Tobacco program at an annual SCF Gathering. Stephan later learned that she had to quit tobacco to have knee replacement surgery.
“I called [SCF] Health Education to help me quit tobacco before surgery to replace my knee,” said Stephan. “Health Education set me up with gum and patches; in 49 years, I never tried to quit smoking. I had to have my knee replaced, so I gave it a try.”

Today, Stephan is nearly a year tobacco-free. She encourages others to try, even if they are unsure whether they will be able to quit. Stephan noticed that she initially gained weight but has since lost it. Since Stephan has quit smoking food tastes better, she can smell better, and pain from the surgery and rheumatoid arthritis has subsided. She no longer needs her inhalers, and her wheezing has stopped. Stephan attributes all this to quitting tobacco.

Quitting smoking greatly reduces many health risks, including the risk of oral cancer. People who use tobacco are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with oral cancer. Men in particular are twice more likely to have oral cancer than women, and Alaska Native people are nearly one-and-a-half times more likely to be diagnosed with oral cancer.
The American Dental Association recommends checking your mouth regularly for any lumps or sores if you are at increased risk. Schedule routine annual dental exams, talk with your primary care provider, or call a tobacco cessation specialist to discuss how SCF can help you make healthier choices.

Schedule a routine dental exam (when operations return to normal in SCF Dental), at (907) 729-2000, or call SCF Health Education to join a virtual tobacco cessation learning circle for Alaska Native and American Indian people in the Anchorage Service Unit. The tobacco cessation program offers one-on-one counseling, follow-up services, group counseling, and access to nicotine replacement therapy.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call SCF Health Education at (907) 729-2689 or the Benteh Nuutah Valley Native Primary Care Center Wellness Center at (907) 631-7630.

April Kyle began her career at Southcentral Foundation during a period of rapid growth for the organization. She was hired in 2003 as the manager of employment and recruitment and quickly advanced into more senior positions. By 2010, Kyle was named the director of human resources. After five years in this role, contributing to SCF’s innovations and best practices for hiring, training, promoting and rewarding “best fit” employees within the entire Nuka System of Care, she joined the Vice President Leadership Team as vice president of behavioral services.
Kyle has worked closely with internal and external partners to support SCF’s workforce and build greater capacity to serve the Alaska Native Community. SCF Leadership, employees, and customer-owners have appreciated her expertise and deep understanding of the Alaska Native health care system from the customer-owner perspective. She was one of the first graduates of SCF’s Executive Leadership Experience, as well as a member of the Alaska Native Executive Leadership Program’s inaugural class at Alaska Pacific University and the Alaska Journal of Commerce’s Top Forty Under 40 class of 2013.
A CIRI shareholder of Athabascan descent, Kyle was born in Eagle River and spent summers in the village of Ninilchik where her father was raised. With the support of The CIRI Foundation’s educational scholarships and grants, she received her bachelor’s degree at Montana State University. Kyle later earned her master’s at the University of Washington Foster School of Business. Her passion for family and her children helped shape SCF’s family friendly policies and a balanced approach to employee wellness.