New respite program helps homeless people heal

first_imgBrother Francis Shelter Respite program manager Robin Dempsey sits in the new respite area. (Hillman/Alaska Public Media)A new community partnership is freeing up hospital resources by proving people without homes a place to heal. Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage is working with the area’s three main hospitals to provide respite care for sick or injured people who are homeless.Listen nowDuring her 26 years as a home health care provider, nurse Deb Seidl has treated people living in homeless camps and out of campers–anywhere she could consistently find them. But she said healing on the streets is hard.“To be sick or to be just not well – maybe it’s an injury – to be on the streets is scary,” Seidl said. “It’s difficult to heal. There’s so much to try to pull together.”Wounds are more easily infected without running water, and overcoming an illness is harder without some place to sleep all day. This causes people to go in and out of the hospital taking up beds and using emergency department services. They need one basic thing.“For healing, housing is often that first prescription,” Seidl said.So a couple of years ago, a team at Providence began looking for a community partner that could provide short-term respite housing for people who are homeless. They found it with Catholic Social Services.“Here we are in the Brother Francis Shelter Medical Respite Area,” BFS Program Director Lisa Caldeira said as she walked into a quiet hallway at the back of the largest emergency shelter in Anchorage. The area has five double occupancy bedrooms, a small common room with large plastic rocking chairs, a kitchen, and an office for a case manager.“It is meant to be a space for peace and calm and healing,” Caldeira explained. Some people stay there for a week, others for months.The pilot respite program started with just two beds in October 2016 then quickly grew to four. Some of the 18 patient-guests who stayed there received in-home health services, like nurses who changed bandages on wounds or physical therapists. Others just had a space to rest while getting over pneumonia or a broken bone.Caldeira said during the pilot phase, Providence donated care to patients, giving the partners time to figure out details like visiting protocols and compliance with Medicare requirements.“We were able to practice and make mistakes and figure out how medical respite could work here at the shelter and for Anchorage,” Caldeira said.Now the respite area is officially open and has space for 10 patient-guests, like Ed McLaughlin. He joined the respite program because of a broken knee.“If it wasn’t for back there,” McLaughlin said, pointing to the respite area, “my only other options would be sprawl out on the floor out here like the general population does that’s staying here, or be out on the streets.”McLaughlin said because he’s had time and space to heal, he may not need surgery. He hoped to be back doing seasonal jobs soon and not returning to the shelter.For Vicki Hannah, the new respite program offers hope. She moved to Anchorage from Seward to seek medical care but can’t afford housing. Without housing, she can’t get the surgery she needs.“The doctors don’t like to do surgery for people who are homeless,” Hannah said, echoing the sentiments of some of the medical providers. “So I was going to have to wait until Alaska Housing put me in a place, but now I might be able to have it done sooner.”But Hannah can’t pre-book a room in the respite area. Patients are connected to the program through the hospitals who contact the shelter and together they see if the program is a good fit. The patient-guests have to be able to care for themselves and be willing to share space. For people who stay longer than a week or so, the case manager will connect them to longer-term services and rapid re-housing. 14 of the 18 patient-guests who participated in the pilot respite program did not return to homelessness.The program is based on similar models at homeless shelters in Washington and California.“Probably doing this has been the highlight of my career,” Seidl said. “Part of it is to be in the room with community leaders and hospital leaders that have a common goal and all have the community and community members’ best interest at heart.”Seidl and others say this is the first time they can remember Providence Hospital, Alaska Regional Hospital and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium collaborating on a project. Construction companies and architects volunteered time to re-do the space at the shelter. They are also opening a clinic at Brother Francis.Seidl said anecdotal evidence shows that emergency department visits are down since starting the program, but they don’t have hard data. However, she has heard one concrete response from participants: “It is so good to feel safe.”last_img read more

State proposes fine for safety violations at Ahtnaowned gas exploration well

first_imgExploration well Tolsona No. 1, located about 11 miles West of Glennallen, Alaska (Photo by Elizabeth Harball. alaska’s Energy Desk – Anchorage)The state is proposing a $380,000 fine for Alaska Native corporation Ahtna, Inc., for safety violations at a gas well near Glennallen.Listen nowThe Native corporation started drilling the exploration well last September, hoping to find natural gas to use as cheaper fuel for interior Alaska communities.The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission stated the violations posed a “serious and significant risk to public health and the environment.”In an order sent May 24, the commission charged that an oil and gas exploration company owned by Ahtna, Tolsona Oil and Gas Exploration, didn’t install proper safety equipment.The commission also said the company “stonewalled” the agency’s attempts to address the issues.Ahtna is challenging the fine. In a statement released yesterday, the corporation disputed parts of the commission’s account. The company said it took “immediate action” to comply with the state’s order, installing the required equipment this week.Ahtna added the project has an “outstanding safety record,” but also stated that it lacks the “decades of experience that Alaska’s major oil and gas producers do.”last_img read more

Governor floats idea of head tax to end legislative stalemate

first_imgAfter an entire regular session and more than half a special session gone with no deal on a state budget, Governor Bill Walker met with legislative leaders on Monday (June 5) to roll out a compromise package.Alaska Gov. Bill Walker talks about the state’s budget on Wednesday, June 1, 2016 during a press conference in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney, KTOO – Juneau)Under the governor’s proposal, people who work in Alaska would pay a set amount each year based on their income.Listen nowBut the House majority coalition met the package with a cool response. Dillingham Democrat House Speaker Bryce Edgmon says it doesn’t go far enough this year to solve the budget crisis.“What we saw today being offered really is a scenario that finds the Legislature in an election year back in Juneau fighting intractable budget battles and having to make really tough choices,” Edgmon said. “So, what our coalition has been saying all along is: ‘We need to make those tough choices this year.’”The governor’s tax concept, known as a “head tax” is based on a proposal by Fairbanks Republican Senator Click Bishop. But Walker wants to raise twice as much as Bishop proposed. Under Bishop’s proposal, the tax would range from 50 dollars for people who earn less than 20,000 dollars to 500 dollars for those paid more than a half million bucks.Governor Walker also called on lawmakers to pass the Senate version of an overhaul to the state’s oil tax credit system – with one change. Under that change – known as ring fencing — oil and gas companies would no longer be able reduce their taxes due on revenue from one field by their costs to develop another.Walker also endorsed the Senate version of a bill to draw money from the Permanent Fund to pay for the state government. It would set dividend checks  at $1,000.But Walker supported the House version of the state budget.The governor’s compromise package would reduce the gap between what the state spends and what it raises by nearly 90 percent [from $2.5 billion to $300 million].The state government will shut down on July 1, if lawmakers can’t reach a compromise.last_img read more

Top four gubernatorial candidates voice support for Donlin mine

first_imgThe site of the proposed Donlin gold mine, which would be one of the biggest in the world (KYUK photo)Gov. Bill Walker made headlines this past weekend after he requested that the Army Corps of Engineers suspend the Environmental Impact Statement for the controversial Pebble mine in Bristol Bay.Listen nowBut Walker, who is running for re-election as an independent, and three other top gubernatorial candidates have pledged support for the Donlin mine, which would be the one of the biggest gold mines in the world. Walker says Donlin so far appears to be following the rules of regulatory process.“I have to have a pretty strong reason to not support something and so I’m still looking at that, but what I know of it I’m comfortable with,” Walker said.Walker’s competitors tout other benefits of the Donlin mine. Former Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell is running as a Republican. Treadwell praises Donlin’s promise to bring more jobs to the Y-K Delta.“There are mines around the state that employ a lot of people and it’s one of the most important things we can do for regional development,” Treadwell said.The project also proposes a 315-mile-long gas pipeline from Cook Inlet to fuel the mine’s operations and power demands. Former state Senator Mike Dunleavy, who is running as a Republican and will face Treadwell in the GOP primary in August, says that pipeline is a huge energy opportunity for the Y-K Delta and the state.“A lot of spin-off industries will benefit from it in the Y-K Delta and Southcentral Alaska so I think it’s a huge opportunity for Alaska,” Dunleavy said.Former United States Senator Mark Begich, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the primary, has voiced support for Donlin for years and believes the project on Native Corporation land can co-exist with the subsistence lifestyle in Western Alaska.“They’ve understood the value of fishing and they understand the importance of it to subsistence lifestyle,” Begich said.The Donlin mine would increase barge traffic on the Kuskokwim River, the food source for many residents in the Y-K Delta.It will require large treatment facilities for mercury and cyanide coming from the mine’s operations. Donlin has already received a water permit from the state to discharge wastewater into Crooked Creek, which drains into the Kuskokwim River.People living the Y-K Delta are also worried about what will happen after the mine stops producing. The site would have to be monitored forever, once it ceases operations.Gov. Walker says he doesn’t see the state relaxing monitoring enforcement, even with the budget crunch the last couple of years. He’s confident the state can adequately regulate the mine.“We certainly we have laws in place,” Walker said. “I believe if we need to strengthen those laws, then let’s strengthen those laws.”Treadwell and Dunleavy will battle each other in the August primary for the Republican nomination. On the Democratic side, Begich is unopposed, and the winners will face Governor Walker in November.last_img read more