Nenana Wellness Coalition
May 24, 2016
The Nenana Wellness Coalition is an alliance of representatives from various organizations, government agencies, community groups and individuals that meets weekly to discuss, evaluate, coordinate, consolidate, celebrate, masticate and help implement plans for improving the wellness and quality of life in Nenana Alaska.
We had 7 participants today: Bonnie Reed, Kat McElroy, David Poppe, Mary Alexander, Virginia Young, and Cindy & Jim Hautla.
We enjoyed cheesy ham and potato soup, raw cheddar cheese, with fresh-baked sourdough bread, smoked salmon salad with pita bread, Ritz crackers with sliced cheese and mixed raisins and pecans for lunch.
WELCOME and READING OF MISSION STATEMENT: By this week’s chairperson: Virginia Young
SPIRITUAL MOMENT: was lead by Bonnie, with a short prayer.
PRESENTATION OF AGENDA AND CALL FOR MODIFICATIONS: There were no items added to the agenda.
MINUTES: The minutes were generated last week, posted at the WIN link at http://www.railbelt.org and submitted electronically to the WIN e-list with no noted corrections.
INTRODUCTION OF GUESTS: No new guests today.
Sobering Center Listening Session: Kat attended one in a series of four Community Listening Sessions hosted by Ms. Shirley Lee in Fairbanks, to explore the concept of a Fairbanks Sobering Center. Modeled on the old Sleep-Off Center which was defunded 20 years ago, the purpose of this would be to provide a safe alternative for caring for public inebriates as opposed to hospitalization, detox or incarceration. Some of the attendees were: a physician from the ER at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, the Fairbanks Chief of Police, staff from the Community Service Patrol and detox unit, staff from the Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, people from various components of health and social services and members of the community at large for whom chronic/public inebriation is a concern. Shirley Lee was instrumental in getting the Fairbanks Housing First program off the drawing boards and into reality and she is passionate about addressing the problems associated with caring for chronic inebriates.
Shirley provided some background information regarding the old Sleep-Off Program, the use of Title 47 to place inebriates into protective custody, the current options available for dealing with intoxicated/incapacitated people which is arrest/incarceration , admit to the detox unit or Emergency Room admit to FMH. She also gave an over-view of how the Community Service Patrol now functions as “first responders” to public inebriation. She then had the doctor from FMH speak. He diagramed the patient flow and explained how ER response to alcohol incapacitation impacts their ability to deal with other health emergencies. He said that there are typically around 4,000 ER admits per year where alcohol use is the primary medical issues. He explained that the majority of these are the same people being seen repeatedly in any given year.
The Chief of Police spoke next, on how his concept of community policing would fit with using a Sobering Center as opposed to arrest/incarceration. He explained, “Frankly, police are ill-prepared to deal with alcohol incapacitation, and it impedes our ability to deal with actual crime. Death is the least favorable outcome, but an unfortunate possible result of dealing with public drunkenness as a police issue. Staff from the Rescue Mission explained the problem they have with putting people out into the weather when residents return to the homeless shelter intoxicated, yet this is currently what their policy is, in light of any more viable option, to maintain safety.
A CSP driver spoke to the issue of providing safety for people who are sometimes combative or otherwise unpleasant. It takes a certain dedication to deal with this population. Kat and another recovering alcoholic spoke, to help explain the need to not re-traumatize people in the name of “helping” them. Research shows that people experiencing this degree of alcohol/drug use invariably are self-medicating around sometimes lifelong trauma histories. Several members of different church bodies spoke of their various efforts to do outreach to this population.
In the process of discussing the listening session with other attendees afterwards, Kat learned that Bethel has a Sobering Center that has been operational for some time. She got contact information and made an email inquiry to a Kevin Tressler who is on staff there. He replied immediately, see below:
The Sobering Center provides a safe shelter for intoxicated people, to include a basic medical screening and close monitoring of clients at the facility. The Sobering Center is based in Bethel, Alaska and is managed by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) Behavioral Health Department. YKHC works in conjunction with the City of Bethel Police Department’s Community Service Patrol (CSP) staff. At the facility, sobered clients receive an SBIRT screening (Screening, Brief Intervention Referral and Treatment) to assess alcohol and drug use. If a client is considered at risk for substance abuse, staff provides a brief intervention and provides motivators to change behavior. Referrals are initiated for those willing individuals who are identified as being at risk due to their substance use disorder, or co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness.
Initial contact with intoxicated individuals provided services at the Sobering Center is made by Bethel Police Department (BPD) officers or Community Service Patrol (CSP) officers. These officers determine if individuals contacted are intoxicated and incapacitated and place them into Alaska Statute Title 47.37.170 Protective Custody. Officers then determine these individual’s disposition for transport to the YKDRH Emergency room for clearance for admittance to the YKCC jail or direct transport to the YKHC Sobering Center.
BPD and CSP officers screen individuals placed in Protective Custody for injury, behavioral or health concerns and criminal activities. Those individuals that are un-injured and require a safe and respectful place to sober are taken directly to the Sobering Center. Injured individuals, those with behavioral or health concerns or needing criminal disposition are transported to the YKDRH Emergency room for treatment or clearance for admission to the YKCC jail.
Sobering Center staff provides intoxicated individuals with a breath alcohol test, a brief medical assessment, sleep off monitoring for up to 12 hours, screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment for alcohol use. Individuals transported to the Sobering Center are under Protective Custody while in the custody of BPD or CSP. After acceptance by the Sobering Center, their stay at the facility is voluntary and not considered Protective Custody. If an individual decides to leave the facility before deemed sober by the staff, the Sobering Center staff notifies the BPD for dispensation.
Occasionally, intoxicated individuals seek admittance to the Sobering Center for sleep off services via personal transport (taxi, walk-in or personal vehicles). The BPD/CSP is notified by Sobering Center staff to clear these individuals for criminal or behavioral issues. These individuals are then admitted and provided a safe and respectful place to sober.
Sobering Center has eight full time employees that work 7, 12 hour, shifts. All staff are certified in ETT or EMT, all training is completed here at the center and in conjunction with YKHC EMS department and the State of Alaska.
Another Listening Session will be scheduled next month, to further explore the issue of a Fairbanks Sobering Center. Kat will continue to bring information to WIN as the project progresses. Discussion ensued regarding the impact of chronic inebriation and the strain on resources this creates in our community. Our EMS squad consists of a half a dozen dedicated but over-utilized people who have expressed frustration at ending up serving as basically a “taxi service” to Fairbanks for intoxicated people who will be “treated and streeted” sometimes faster than our ambulance crew can even return to home base. People want to actually help. The question is could we get the clinic, the Native Council, the City, the EMS/Fire Department to come together to do something similar to a Sobering Center in Nenana, and if so, how. This issue of keeping people safe is a reoccurring topic at WIN, which we have visited a half-a-dozen times over the years. Perhaps with shrinking revenues and consequential cuts in services, the time is ripe to move forward to see what we could do utilizing existing resources.
Nenana Saturday Market: The initial Saturday market will be this weekend, Saturday, 8AM-2PM, at the Civic Center. We do not know how many vendors there will be, however, there are radio spots and newspaper ads in place and we look forward to seeing everyone there!
WELLNESS THOUGHT: We move towards and become like that which we think. Stay alert to what ideas, thoughts and beliefs you allow to rent space in your head. Hippie
Mary: They will be heading south Thursday to attend a family wedding and will be playing for a birthday party in the area while they are down there.
Bonnie: Tonight, 6 PM, the Ice Classic annual meeting and board elections will be held, culminating in a community dinner. All residents of Nenana are invited to attend and vote; everyone is welcome.
Tomorrow, May 25, the Kindergarten will be graduating at NCPS at 1:30 PM and the 8th Grade will graduate at 8 PM.
Food Boxes will be delivered and available for pick-up at the Senior Center on Wednesday the 25th of May.
May 26th will be the last day of school.
Monday the 30th of May is Traditional Memorial Day and will be celebrated as usual with a BBQ and picnic up on the hill.
David: Is feeling overwhelmed. He has barley that needs to be planted, fertilizer to spread, about 12 pigs that need to get to the butcher, fencing to erect, a chicken house to move and a pig barn to dismantle.
Kat: hauled four weaner pigs to a buyer down in Wasilla; she took her grandkids who went to the Takia Con anime festival at the Mat-Su college down there. They had a grand time listening to loud music on the trip down and back. She got to see Leon.
Jim: He knows Kevin from Bethel—two degrees of separation is Alaska! He has a greenhouse full of green things to go into the ground and to the Saturday Market.
Virginia: Her daughter Margret is setting up camp for DOT in Cantwell to work this summer.
ADJOURNMENT: 2:05 PM.