ICHS Outreach and Enrollment Coordinator Sharissa Tjok is bracing herself for November 1st. The date marks the first day of the open enrollment period that will last until January 31, 2017. During that time, her team and other ICHS staff members will be working diligently to help individuals and families sign up for insurance coverage through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.
This is the fourth year ICHS will partner with the state to help enroll patients and clients for various health care plans available through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, also known as “the marketplace.” Since the launch of Obamacare and the state exchange, over 1.7 million people have signed up for health care coverage in Washington State.
That number includes Rachel, a client who initially met with ICHS three years ago. At the time, she was paying over $1,000 each month for coverage for herself, her husband and two children. ICHS helped her enroll in state-subsidized coverage through Washington Apple Health. When her son had a serious medical emergency a couple of years ago, the total cost of his care was covered by their insurance.
“It has changed our lives,” she said.
During the open enrollment period, Washington residents can enroll in a qualified health plan for coverage beginning in 2017. Washington residents who qualify for subsidized coverage through Apple Health can enroll at any time, however. For residents who already have coverage through the exchange, it is recommended that they verify the cost of their 2017 premiums at this time and consider switching to a different plan if they find one that better suits their needs.
To meet the high demand for enrollment assistance, ICHS’s certified navigators will be available for walk-in appointments on several Saturdays throughout the open enrollment period and for scheduled appointments Mondays through Fridays. Anyone interested in setting up an appointment, can call a nearby ICHS clinic. A typical appointment is one hour.
One of the notable changes for 2017 is that people signing up for a non-Apple Health medical plan will be able to add dental coverage.
“This is a great improvement for patients who were not able to get dental insurance before,” said Tjok. “It is a step in the right direction.
As we get older, we search for ways to retain our independence, quality of life and connections to community. This grows increasingly difficult as we begin to experience declines in health and mobility.
Last year, ICHS and Kin On Community Health Care formed a partnership to address this concern.
Discussions between the two groups have yielded a bold blueprint to build a 20,000-square-foot care facility in Seattle to serve frail seniors who are “nursing home eligible,” but want to stay in their homes and “age in place.” Each organization has pledged $3 million to make this endeavor a reality.
“We want to keep seniors who need chronic care active in the community and living in their homes as long as possible because that’s the key to maintaining their health,” explained Teresita Batayola, ICHS CEO.
Sam Wan, Kin On CEO, said the partnership was a natural fit because of the two organizations’ “successful track record for serving our elderly population” and the rapidly growing number of Asians in King County over the age of 60. “Their needs for services are compounded by language, cultural and access barriers,” he said.
Until recently, there were few choices for those who wanted to “age in place.” Institutionalization often became the inevitable next step when physical fragility and chronic care needs became too great for families to cope with. The Kin On Chinese Nursing Home has offered culturally sensitive care since 1987. The Seattle Keiro Nursing Home, initially targeted toward first generation Japanese Americans, has been in operation since 1976.
These nursing homes—now prominent anchors in the local health care sector—continue to provide quality care for Asian Pacific Islander seniors. But between the two organizations, there are only 250 beds: 100 at Kin On and 150 at Seattle Keiro.
In recent years, attitudes have shifted, especially among aging baby boomers. Entering a nursing home is now viewed by many as a last resort. With the emergence of “silver industries”—including senior concierge services and home health care agencies—today’s seniors have many more options.
Emerging into this changed paradigm for healthy aging is a little-known federal program called PACE, the acronym for Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, first pioneered in San Francisco Chinatown over four decades ago. Today, there are 228 PACE centers in 31 states.
The program, supported by Medicare and Medicaid, provides a range of services, including primary medical, dental, behavioral health, and specialty care, personal care, recreation, nutrition counseling, meals and transportation—all with the goal of helping frail seniors safely in their homes or communities as long as possible.
According to a 2015 feasibility study conducted by a national consulting firm, there are 1,338 potential APIs eligible to enroll in PACE in Seattle and King County. The feasibility study was supported by grants from the City of Seattle and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation.
“Clearly, the market is there for a PACE facility serving our community,” Batayola said.
The new facility that Batayola and Wan are planning to develop would be the second PACE program in Washington State. The first is Providence ElderPlace, founded in Seattle in 1995. The new PACE facility is tentatively planned to be built on the vacant north parking lot of the old Pacific Tower on Beacon Hill. The new PACE program would be tailored to the cultural needs of the Asian and Pacific Islander community.
An earlier search for an affordable long-term site to establish the PACE program in the Chinatown-International District turned out to be fruitless, given the hot real estate market.
“We hope to be operational some time in 2017,” said Ian Munar, PACE program coordinator. “The initial plan is to start off with 10 participants the first month and then ramp up with seven participants monthly. The program goal is to have 220 participants by the end of the third year of operation.”
Munar pointed out that ICHS and Kin On have created a new non-profit organization—Aging in PACE Washington—to administer the program. The cost of building the new facility is approximately $12 million. Aging in PACE will conduce a capital campaign to raise both public and private dollars for construction.
One enthusiastic booster of the new PACE facility is Sue Mar, a lifelong Seattleite. She and her family found themselves caring for an elderly unmarried aunt who had no children. The aunt, living alone in a condo, began showing signs of dementia at age 76 and her symptoms got progressively worse. She was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Mar’s aunt lived in her condo until age 83 with support from a team of caregivers, medical providers, and her family. She passed away at the age of 90 in 2014.
“As people are getting older and living longer, it’s the little things that start adding up,” Mar said. “Their short term memory starts to go. They can’t remember things and become confused. They forget to eat and take their medications. Without medical professionals in the home, it is hard to properly diagnose the early signs of Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s or dementia. This puts the older person in a dangerous living situation and places enormous stress on family members trying to provide daily support so that person can ‘age in place.’”
Mar said she retired early from her job with Seattle City Light so she could help both her aunt and her mother, who had early stage dementia.
“With my aunt, it took way too long to get a proper diagnosis. Things came to a head when she was found wandering in front of her condo in her PJs and walking barefoot. She didn’t know where she was. That’s when we went back to the doctor and said, ‘You have to do something.’ We were finally able to get a social worker into the home to see what was going on.”
Batayola said PACE program can provide much needed support to folks like Sue Mar by keeping aging seniors connected.
“The wonderful thing about the PACE program is that even if the client’s children and grandchildren are occupied during the day, he or she has the means to go to a place where there are interdisciplinary services to maintain their social, mental and physical well-being,” Batayola said. “Each of these senior participants gets a unique plan, including some home services if needed.”
Earlier this year, ICHS organized the first-ever Lunar New Year 5K at the Mercer Slough Nature Park in Bellevue to bring attention to its new Bellevue medical-dental clinic. The sold-out event attracted over 300 runners and walkers, raising over $21,000 to support uncompensated patient care.
The Lunar New Year is traditionally the most significant holiday for many Asian Pacific Islanders, marking the return of Spring and a special time for families to offer wishes for health and prosperity in the coming year. The Year of the Rooster begins on January 28, 2017.
“We’re encouraging folks to integrate this healthy, family-friendly winter activity into their celebration of the New Year,” ICHS Foundation Director Ron Chew said.
The start of the 5K will be launched with a colorful lion dance performance. The event includes chip-timing, awards in different age categories and for best costumes, raffle prizes and post-race food and beverages.
Super early bird registration before November 1 is $20. A free commemorative t-shirt will be included along with the registration fee. The event will be free to children under 13 and those over the age of 70. Seniors between the ages of 60 and 69 will receive a $5 discount.
To register, visit www.ichs.com/5k. For information about the event or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities, contact Chris Potter at 206-788-3694 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Uncle Bob” Santos, long-time Seattle social justice champion and one of the founders of International Community Health Services (ICHS), passed away on Saturday, August 27 at the age of 82.
In his role as executive director of the International District Improvement Association (Inter*Im) during the 1970s, Santos spearheaded efforts to preserve the Chinatown-International District in the wake of the construction of the giant Kingdome nearby. His efforts—over the next several decades—resulted in the restoration of old hotels, construction of new low-income housing and creation of bilingual social services for the low-income immigrants in the neighborhood. His successful advocacy gave birth to ICHS, the city-chartered Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Danny Woo Community Garden, Merchants Parking Association and a host of programs for immigrants, low-income residents and small businesses.
In the 1990s, Santos successfully negotiated for the transfer of surplus Metro property at Eighth Avenue and South Dearborn Street to SCIDpda to develop into the $23 million International District Village Square, which currently houses the ICHS flagship clinic.
In 1975, Santos helped establish the first home for the ICHS clinic in a tiny one-room storefront at 416 Maynard Avenue South, across the street from Hing Hay Park. ICHS CEO Teresita Batayola said Santos would often reminisce and laugh with her about the clinic’s humble origins. The challenge, according to Batayola, was “trying to convince the elderly Filipino and Chinese men living in squalid conditions that our clinic was their clinic, with no hidden agendas other than helping them get well.
“Bob was not alone in his passion for protecting and improving Chinatown/ID. But he was singular in inspiring and organizing so many of us, especially students and the youth. Over the years, I was always drawn to his sense of justice and passion for our community.”
Santos was affectionately known to ICHS staff and medical providers as “Patient Number 47.” ICHS currently serves over 25,500 patients at its seven clinic locations throughout Seattle, Bellevue and Shoreline.
Susie Chin, hired in 1975 as the first full-time employee at ICHS, said Uncle Bob had encouraged her to apply for the job. Chin worked as front desk coordinator. At the time, she said, the elderly low-income Filipinos and Chinese residents traveled from Chinatown all the way to Pioneer Square or Beacon Hill to seek badly needed health care. “It was really hard for them because many of them were walking with canes,” she said. “Uncle Bob knew that there was a great need for the clinic. He knew first-hand because his dad lived in Chinatown, was blind and Uncle Bob had to take him around everywhere. Everything Uncle Bob did was from the heart.”
Cris Krisologo-Elliott, ICHS board member for 12 years, said Santos was an outstanding leader “who loved his community, but really loved his family, which has grown from 6 children to a large number of grandchildren and great grandchildren.”
She said she has fond memories of the time when Uncle Bob was living in a small apartment in the International District and spending much of his time schmoozing and performing karaoke at the Bush Garden with “many of his friends, protégés, community leaders and politicians.”
“It was like the Bush Garden was his living room and reception space, always surrounded as he sang ‘New York, New York’ or ‘Lady in Red,’” Krisologo-Elliott said. “Little did I know that years after hanging out at the Bush Garden, his son, John, and my daughter, Meagan, would meet and marry. So thus we became like relatives, sharing grandchildren.”
Batayola added, “Over the years, Uncle Bob graced ICHS’ Bloom Gala, dancing center stage with choreographed back-up dancers or limping slowly on stage with a walker in a patient gown, only to dramatically toss the walker and bust some moves.”
International Community Health Services (ICHS) will open a new Young Adult Clinic at its Shoreline clinic next month, providing contraceptive services and mental health counseling to those between the ages of 14 and 26.
“Unlike Seattle, Shoreline has no teen youth clinics, family planning clinics or mental health services specifically for young people,” Pia Sampaga-Khim, ICHS Health Education Supervisor, said. “The Young Adult Clinic will provide a youth-friendly and confidential space that is staffed by health care professionals.”
ICHS, the largest Asian and Pacific Islander health care provider in Washington State, provides medical and dental services at seven locations in Puget Sound. The 37,000-square-foot Shoreline clinic opened in September 2014 as the first non-profit community health center in the city. An in-house pharmacy is scheduled to open this fall.
Sampaga-Khim said planning for the Young Adult Clinic resulted from a community needs assessment and conversations with local high school students who expressed a strong desire for access to health services at a location within easy walking distance. She noted that the closest Planned Parenthood center is in Northgate.
The Young Adult Clinic services will include emergency contraception, sexually transmitted diseases (STD) screening and treatment and mental health counseling. It will be staffed by a medical provider, behavioral health specialist and health educator.
Sampaga-Khim, who grew up in Lynnwood, said, “We didn’t have a teen center. I had a primary care provider, but the last thing a young person wants to do is talk to that person about contraception, pregnancy and mental health issues. As a young person, you just don’t know where to go. We had a school nurse, but we only turned to that person if we weren’t feeling well. The nurse would make you lie down and then call your parents. That was about it.”
Serving as ambassadors for the new Young Adult Clinic will be HYPE, the acronym for Health Youth Peer Educators, a group of six to 10 students who will serve as “health champions” in Shoreline, Sampaga-Khim said. The group currently includes students from three schools: Ingraham, Shorecrest and Learning Center North.
“It’s empowering when young people own their health and seek their own care when they need it,” she said. “By educating young people to access care, we can lower the numbers for unwanted pregnancies and STD. We can teach young people how the health care system works so that they’re more likely to access health care in the future. When people are more informed, they more likely to make decisions that are in their best interest.”
The address of the Shoreline clinic is 16549 Aurora Ave N., Shoreline WA 98133. Phone number is 206-788-3785. The Young Adult Clinic welcomes walk-ins and appointments.
ICHS will host an Open House to welcome the Young Adult Clinic to Shoreline on Wednesday, September 14 from 5 to 8 p.m. There will be food, music and door prizes. The event is free and open to the public.
When U.S. Senator Patty Murray toured the ICHS International District clinic recently during National Health Center Week, she asked long-time acupuncturist Ping Wong whether “cupping” was offered as one of the traditional medical services at ICHS. Wong said yes and showed her room where she does the cupping and the set of glass cups used to perform the healing technique.
Both Murray and U.S. Representative Adam Smith toured the ICHS clinic on separate visits to mark National Health Center Week, which was celebrated by over 1,000 community clinics across the country August 7 to 13. For over 30 years, the special week has been used to highlight the vital work done by community-based health care agencies that serve vulnerable low-income and underserved populations.
ICHS CEO Teresita Batayola and other ICHS leaders took Murray and Smith on a walking tour through the medical and dental wings and the in-house pharmacy. They described the growth of ICHS from a tiny storefront clinic in the Chinatown-International District in 1973 into a bustling regional health care network with seven locations, now serving more than 25,500 patients annually in over 50 different languages.
During Representative Smith’s visit, Batayola and ICHS leaders presented him with the “Distinguished Community Health Defender” award on behalf of the National Association of Community Health Centers. “He has been a strong and consistent champion in Congress for health centers like ICHS,” Batayola said.
Murray, a four-term US. Senator, selected ICHS as the community health center she wanted to visit during National Health Center Week. “She was especially interested in learning about our unique approaches and our work in serving culturally and linguistically diverse populations,” Batayola said.
During Murray’s tour, she had a chance to learn about the traditional Chinese practice of cupping from acupuncturist Ping Wong, who has been performing the traditional cupping therapy for 35 years. During the Rio Olympics, U.S. champion swimmer Michael Phelps used cupping to help loosen his muscles and promote blood flow, sparking widespread interest in the practice and debate over its effectiveness.
Wong said she performs cupping therapy for patients in conjunction with acupuncture. “It’s a technique using local suction to promote blood flow and expel toxins,” she explained. Open-ended cups are heated to create a vacuum, then placed over the skin for five to 10 minutes, creating red blotches on the skin. “The reaction on the skin indicates the body’s condition,” Wong explained.
Wong said cupping can be helpful for treating pain, stiff muscles, inflammation, arthritis and poor circulation. She said she does not use cupping for patients with a weak system, those who suffer from heavy bleeding or cancer patients.
Wong laughed about the large amount of media attention that Phelps and other Olympic athletes have brought to a Chinese medical practice that has been around for over 1,000 years and is commonplace in many Asian homes. “This may be a new thing for a lot of people, but not to Chinese people who practice it themselves as a home remedy,” she said.
*PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS POST WAS CREATED BEFORE NATIONAL HEALTH CENTER WEEK.
International Community Health Services (ICHS) is proud to be one of the 1,100 Federally Qualified Health Centers around the nation participating in National Health Center Week from August 7 to 13. The theme is “Celebrating America’s Health Centers: Innovators in Community Health.”
For more than 30 years, National Health Center Week has been an important occasion to highlight the vital work done by community-based health care agencies that serve vulnerable low-income and under served populations.
“This year marks our 43rd anniversary,” said Michael McKee, Director of Health Services and Community Partnerships at ICHS. “In that time, we’ve grown from a tiny free storefront clinic in into a regional health care organization serving over 25,000 patients throughout the region. We continue to be at the front line of dealing with the primary care needs of immigrants and refugees who come seeking our services. It’s nice to take pause during National Health Center Week and give appreciation to our patients and our supporters.”
To commemorate this national campaign, ICHS will hold events at four of its clinics (International District, Holly Park, Bellevue, and Shoreline) throughout the next week. Scheduled events include patient appreciation breakfasts, a staff appreciation day and voter registration events.
“ICHS makes me feel secure that they will make sure I am not going to be charged for things I shouldn’t be charged for. That’s usually my biggest worry about going to the doctor.”– ICHS patient
“We serve the A to Z health needs of patients. From health coverage to medical / dental needs to help with financial aid applications.” – Miran Hothi, Community Advocate
For more information about National Health Center Week, please visit:www.healthcenterweek.org. You can also follow the conversation using #NHCW16 or #CHCsInnovate on Twitter.
Ruth Woo, beloved mentor to many elected officials and passionate advocate for Asian Pacific American community causes, passed away on July 13 in Seattle at the age of 89. Woo was a close friend of International Community Health Services (ICHS), supporting the annual ICHS Bloom Gala with financial contributions and wielding her considerable influence behind the scenes to push for state funding to support health services for immigrants and refugees.
Woo, a savvy political insider who always shied away from the limelight, spent a lifetime encouraging aspiring young civic-minded leaders to run for office and urging them to speak out against poverty, injustice and discrimination. Since the 1960s, she advised and supported dozens of Asian Pacific political aspirants, including former Governor Gary Locke, Dolores Sibonga, Martha Choe, Kip Tokuda and Velma Veloria. She owned and operated Puget Sound License Agency, a small business in the Rainier Valley, generously sponsoring many community fundraising events.
“She and her late husband Ben were two giants of that passing generation who paved the way for political empowerment of the API community,” ICHS Foundation Director Ron Chew said. “It’s not an overstatement to say that without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We feel a deep sense of gratitude and loss. During the recent capital campaign to build the new ICHS Shoreline clinic, she helped in the successful lobbying efforts.”
ICHS CEO Teresita Batayola said, “Ruth was the hub for making things happen politically for the Asian community. I learned how to chat and create relationships with political leaders from her. I was very lucky to have had over 40 years of laughter and escapades with her. I remember with great fondness the car pool rides to Olympia, dinners at her home, lunches at the Bush Garden and sharing time with her at the registration table at political events. She made me more of the community person that I am than anyone else.”
Cris Krisologo-Elliott, ICHS board member for 12 years, said of Woo, “She was there during the early days of community activism. She was everywhere. She never said no to anyone. That’s why I always went down to her business to get my license renewed.”