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From Our Listeners
An effort to coax more Alaskans into getting a flu shot has prompted the State Division of Public Health to continue its fee waiver for flu vaccines. Free vaccines will be available at all state public health centers in Alaska for certain Alaskans.
State supplied vaccines are available at no charge to all children under the age of three and to anyone three and older who does not have health insurance. The free vaccines are also for people with insurance that does not cover vaccinations or if they have not yet met their deductible. The $28 fee waiver is in effect through the end of March 2014.
The state has confirmed 242 cases of the flu, mostly in the last three weeks. H1N1, commonly called swine flu, is the dominant strain this year but protection against it is included in this year’s vaccine.
The Sobering Center is now in its fourth winter of operation. It provides a safe place for intoxicated people to sleep off a bad night of drinking. Since it opened, the center has expanded its hours and built relationships with the people it serves.
It takes a team to keep Bethel’s inebriates safe. Community service patrol officers pick up people who are intoxicated and incapacitated. If they don’t have a home to go back to, they are placed in title 47 protective hold for 12 hours. At the Sobering Center, that means a night on a somewhat soft rubber mat. Last year, the center provided 1,860 sleep-off nights with about 970 unique individuals. Several make repeater visits at according to Rusty Tews, the Sobering Center Program Manager for YKHC.
“We have a core of hardcore chronic users, that we see usually regularly that we see regular,” Tews said. “They have a severe addiction problem, they need more services than we provide but they don’t want them and they’re not ready to change.”
Tews said more than half of the patrons come from surrounding villages. About 40 percent are Bethel residents and the other 60 percent people from out of town. The customers are not exactly in their best state, but Tews and the staff make an effort to put people on a different path and avoid having too many repeat customers.
“When people leave here they’re hung over, a lot of them don’t want to talk, but we do offer a conversation, we provide basic health information,” Tews said.
Tews said about one in five are willing to talk about alcohol issues. Ultimately 5 to 7 percent of their contacts result in a referral to medical treatment. The center started off being open just 4 nights a week and later moved to 24/7 operation. Tews said the staff has learned to relax a little bit and meet people where they are.
“Whereas everyone was terrified when we started that drunk people are nasty, ignorant, and hard to get along with,” he said. “They’re generally just people. When they’re sober their just sober, when they’re drunk, they’re just people with a problem. We’ve learned to deal with the problems in a sympathetic and professional way and I think it shows.”
In the future, Tews said the organization and its partners are looking into how to do more with their resources and better serve patients.
The year that’s about to end had more than its share of drama. As we turn the page on another year of news, APRN’s Steve Heimel has a look back at some of the highlights, with his list of the top 10 news stories of 2013.
What was big news in Alaska in some ways depended on where you were. If you were in Galena, it was flooding on the Yukon River in May. In fact, the river flooded again last fall, as a storm surge sent high waters up the river all the way to Russian Mission from the Bering Sea.
Also in the Bering Sea, the sea ice conditions were so jumbled that it was unsafe to hunt walrus, and both Gambell and Savoonga on Saint Lawrence Island declared economic disasters. And then in the fall, freezeup was so late that they were harvesting Bowhead whales in December.
If you were in Bristol Bay, you had a particular interest in one of the biggest stories of the year when mining giant Anglo American pulled its investment out of the Pebble Mine and the other big investor, Rio Tinto, gave strong signals that the public opposition was likely to persuade it to pull out as well.
You also were stunned by the death of an unarmed Village Public Safety Officer, Thomas Madole, who was shot in the line of duty responding to a person’s home in Manakotak.
And much of rural Alaska took an avid interest in a report by the bipartisan Tribal Law and Order Commission that said the state government is not capable of (centrally) maintaining law and order in villages “from an urban, centralized location” and should be working with tribal courts.
But there were some big news stories among the top ten of the year that were spread all over the state:
In Prince William Sound, two fishing tenders sank and spilled. And tenders also sank near Haines, Petersburg, and in Bristol Bay.
Governor Sean Parnell continued an anti-federal thrust that included an investigation of a federal enforcement raid on placer miners, legal action on federal stream jurisdiction, and most notably refused to expand eligibility to Medicaid, even though the federal government would pay for it, denied health care coverage to tens of thousands of Alaskans.
The oil and gas industry was heartened when the state legislature, at Governor Parnell’s urging, changed the tax regime, but opponents of that change soon gathered enough signatures to put repealing it on the ballot. And hopes for offshore oil and gas prospects in the Arctic Ocean got a major setback when Shell’s drilling rig “Kulluk” went aground while under tow.
Another big story still unfolding was the decision by major vendors not to sell Alaska salmon because it wasn’t certified for sustainability by the Marine Stewardship Council. Sedexo changed its mind, WalMart is still on the fence.
And rounding out the top ten stories was a major plane crash at the Soldotna airstrip that took the lives of ten people on their way out on a bear viewing trip. No probable cause has yet been released for that crash.
For the last six years the Bristol Bay Environmental Science Lab has been collecting data about Nushagak Bay. There is a lot that is known about the bay but there are still holes in the data.
Japan's tough new law protecting state secrets was a victory for Washington, which had long pressured its Asian ally to exert tighter control over classified information. But the controversial law has triggered widespread outrage in Japan and undermined the popularity of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
There are places in Alaska where you can blow off fireworks on New Year’s Eve, but not within the city limits of Anchorage. The municipality will sponsor a fireworks display in the downtown area. City residents will face a citation and fine if they light their own fire crackers and bottle rockets. If you live in the Mat-Su Valley, you can shoot off your own fireworks from 6 pm till 1 am. Restrictions apply, including no pyrotechnics within 1,250 feet of a health care facility, school or library and not within 500 feet of any gas station or business where flammable fuels are stored.
Vitamin E has gotten a bad rap because of studies finding it increases risk of death. But people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease might be able to fend off symptoms for a while, a study finds. That could mean more a little more time to live independently, and less burden on caregivers.
SEATTLE — Washington’s already highest-in-the-nation minimum wage will jump to $9.32 an hour on Jan. 1.
The hourly increase of 13 cents, from $9.19 to $9.32 an hour, reflects a change in the consumer price index, according to the state Department of Labor and Industries.
Voters approved an initiative in 1998 that requires the state agency to make a cost-of-living adjustment to its minimum wage each year based on the federal consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers.
ANCHORAGE — Alaska is in line for a $2.6 million federal bonus for increasing the number of children enrolled in its health insurance program.
Alaska has been meeting federal requirements for the fifth year running that are aimed at improving access to Medicaid for eligible families.
KTUU reported the state Department Of Health and Social Services learned Monday it will be receiving the additional funding as part of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act.
ANCHORAGE — The recent deaths of two women in makeshift shelters have refocused attention on the problems Anchorage faces in sheltering a growing homeless population in winter.
Phyllis Ayaprun was found dead Saturday inside a tent in a wooded part of town. Two days earlier, Elaine Cleveland was found dead in a van parked near downtown.
It’s not clear to what extent the women utilized the city’s sheltering system or if either tried to seek indoor shelter before they died. But their deaths have been noted by people who work with the homeless.
KHNS News Year in Review for 2013
A look back at some of the top news stories and events from 2013 for the Upper Lynn Canal.