Today is the Great American Smokeout. Are you ready to make a plan to quit?

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The Great American Smokeout on Nov. 21, which is Thursday, is one day each year when smokers are encouraged to make a plan to quit. The journey may be difficult, but it’s worth it. Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. In Idaho, smoking kills more people than alcohol, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined. More than 1,800 Idahoans die from smoking-related diseases annually, which is an average of four people per day. Quitting tobacco is the best decision you can make for your immediate health and for the rest of your life.

Why is it important to quit smoking sooner rather than later?

The benefits of quitting start immediately after you stop. After 20 minutes of not smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. A year after quitting, the extra risk of a heart attack you’ve gained from smoking drops by half. And after 10-15 years of being cigarette-free, there is a substantial reduction in your risk for cancer or heart disease from smoking.

What are some of the best methods to help a person quit?

Traditional nicotine replacement therapy has been scientifically proven to be an effective intervention. NRT, as it is called, helps a person kick the habit in a gradual, controlled way. Continue reading

Licensing and Certification partners with Idaho Healthcare Association for better training and education for members

Many of us have had the frustrating experience of putting in hours of work only to find out we are “reinventing the wheel” because another person, group, or company is doing the exact same thing. In 2018, the department’s Division of Licensing & Certification (L&C), and their partners, the Idaho Healthcare Association (IHCA), realized they were doing just this – unnecessarily duplicating their training and education efforts.

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They put their heads together and came up with an idea. Their solution was to hold an annual educational summit for individuals and organizations. The summit would offer training and educational resources that would address the training needs of those who work in 19 different facility types, with the goal of improving the quality of care for patients.

Among the facility types the division regulates are skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. The IHCA represents many of these facilities and works closely with its members toward its mission of “improving lives by delivering solutions for quality care.”

A big part of IHCA’s work includes providing education for their association members. Sensing an opportunity for collaboration, L&C joined forces with IHCA in the spring of 2018 to identify and develop resources and training opportunities for management, clinical, and direct care staff in these three facility types. The first Education Summit was held in November 2018.  Thirty-two individuals representing 11 organizations participated in the summit. Continue reading

A Day in the Life of Kathy Anderson, Vital Records Services, Idaho Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics

Hidden away behind locked doors on the first floor of the PTC Building is the most interesting place. It’s full of information regarding births, deaths, marriages, and divorces in Idaho. The intimate details are fascinating, but they are also private and protected.

And that is a detail Kathy Anderson, a program manager with Idaho Vital Records, takes very seriously as she attempts to find solutions for customers and co-workers.

“Our Customer Service Unit processes all requests for copies of sensitive Idaho vital records, such as birth, death, stillbirth, miscarriage, marriage and divorce certificates,” she says. “The Legal Amendments Unit handles any changes that need to be made to those documents, which may be requested for a variety of circumstances, including inaccuracies or life changes.”

Kathy Anderson reviews a request for a vital record.

Kathy Anderson, left, reviews a request for a vital record.

She says that business is booming because of the number of people seeking certified copies so they can fulfill requirements for the new Star Card – Idaho’s REAL ID.  At the same time, someone interrupts her seeking help with a complicated birth certificate situation for a home birth. Usually, a doctor or hospital certifies a record of birth in Idaho, but this case poses unique challenges for the program’s Registration Unit in establishing a record of this birth and will require extra work in tracking down additional information.

The services provided by the Vital Records Services Program are a critical function of the state. In addition to the recent uptick in certificate orders and corrections because of the REAL ID Act, birth certificates are needed to enroll children in school, and death certificates are needed to help settle estates. Continue reading

eWIC makes it easier for families to make healthy choices at grocery stores

Families in the Idaho Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program now have a more convenient way to shop for healthy, WIC-approved foods. The WIC program has rolled out a digital payment innovation, which involves switching from paper checks to an electronic benefits system. The new system is called eWIC, and it distributes benefits onto a card that is used like a debit card.

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eWIC rolled out in southern Idaho on Sept. 12 and expanded to the rest of the state in October.

The digital program gives families in the WIC program a more convenient and efficient way to shop for healthy, WIC-approved foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, juice, baby formula, and baby foods.

“We’ve received some really positive feedback from moms who have started using the card. And when it’s paired with the WICShopper app, it really streamlines the customer experience as they purchase healthy foods,” said Cristi Litzsinger, director of Idaho WIC. Continue reading

Don’t wait: Now is the time to get your yearly flu shot!

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The flu season in Idaho can last from October to May, and it typically peaks in January or February. Getting vaccinated now is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from what can be a serious illness, even for otherwise healthy people.

Let’s start with the basics: Who should get the vaccine?  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get the flu vaccine every year. But it’s especially important that people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children, and people older than 65 get vaccinated because they are at higher risk of having serious flu-related complications. Anyone who lives with or cares for babies or other people who are at high risk for complications should also get vaccinated.

How long does protection from the flu vaccine last?

It takes about two weeks after you receive the vaccine to be fully protected, but it will last throughout the season if you get it now. It’s important to remember that the vaccine reduces your risk for influenza, but it doesn’t eliminate it. While your body is building immunity, you could still get sick if you are exposed to the virus. Continue reading

Healthy Connections Value Care begins January 1, 2020, with the goal of making Medicaid patients healthier

DHW Innovation logo with green and blueMeet Jane. Jane lives in Idaho. She has diabetes and high blood pressure, and she recently broke her wrist when she slipped on an icy sidewalk. Jane is a Medicaid participant. When she sees her primary healthcare provider for her wrist, the provider is aware of the diabetes and blood pressure conditions, even though that’s not why she’s in the office. That’s because the doctor has agreed to designate his practice as a patient-centered medical home. This means he will coordinate ALL of Jane’s care to make sure she’s receiving the right treatment to maintain or improve her health, at the right time, and at the right cost.

This is the future the Department of Health and Welfare sees as it works to ensure all Idahoans have affordable, available healthcare that works. A milestone will be marked on Jan. 1, 2020, with the start of the Healthy Connection Value Care Program for Medicaid participants.

The Evolution of Healthy Connections

The Healthy Connections Program in the Division of Medicaid started several years ago. In 2013, Healthy Connections introduced a nationally-recognized model of healthcare delivery called the patient-centered medical home.  This model emphasizes three goals:

  1. Improved patient satisfaction
  2. Improved clinic staff satisfaction
  3. Increased clinic efficiencies

In the patient-centered medical home model, a primary care provider or healthcare team works with the patient to provide comprehensive and continuous medical care. The goal is to keep the patient healthy or improve their health, if possible. Continue reading

A day in the life of the Assertive Community Treatment Team in Region 3

(Client names have been randomly changed to a letter to protect their identity.)

To an outsider, it’s a pretty casual meeting on a recent late summer morning. It would be easy to assume clinicians Ashley Hammond, Angela Saitta, and Tara Dennis, and Clinical Supervisor Brian Lindner are discussing family or friends or catching up after a holiday weekend. Until you listen a little closer.

“She’s been stable, but she does have an upcoming (appointment), so we want to follow up on what her plan is for that,” Angela says of Client D, who they’ll be seeing today.

“I’m concerned he may be drinking again because I got a text from him … after missing his home visit,” Ashley says about Client H, who she’ll be seeing this morning.

They celebrate another client who has taken the initiative to contact the Social Security administration on his own: “He is capable of that.”

Another client may not be able to make their rent payment this month, and the team explores programs that may be able to help her.

The team shares a moment of victory as they hear a client will be returning after being out of contact for a while after a medication change.

“Yes, we found him!” Brian says.

“He’s back in (the area),” Angela shares, before the conversation shifts to the best way to connect with him.

“He likes music,” Angela says. “I’ve talked to him about Game of Thrones.”

Group photo from morning meeting

(Clockwise from front left) Region 3 Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team clinician Ashley Hammond, clinical supervisor Brian Lindner, clinician Angela Saitta, and clinician Tara Dennis meet for a recent morning staff meeting.

For clients served by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Region 3 Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team, mental health support and treatment doesn’t look like what many people may think of as typical counseling or medication management. The team isn’t preparing for a day of office hours and appointments; they are planning for the 16 clients they will be meeting in the community on this day – some at home, some at work, others in challenging living situations because of their serious and persistent mental illnesses and resulting symptoms. Continue reading