News & Announcements

Seeking Solutions to Staggering Alaska Native Suicide Rates

Posted: November 18, 2011

Young Alaska Natives hit hard by suicide, sometimes speaking through choked voices and tears, told a field hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that youth are key to reducing the decades-old epidemic among Alaska Natives and American Indians. At the same hearing on October 23, top officials involved in suicide prevention at the state and federal levels told hearing organizer U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that not enough is being done to address the towering problem. Experts at the hearing cited a number of problems with past suicide-prevention efforts. Tiny tribes in Alaska Native villages often lose out on state and federal funding because they don’t have the staff to apply for competitive grants. Money that is available is often short-term and for narrowly focused projects, with one-size-fits-all requirements that don’t necessarily meet the needs of local communities. And organizations too often fight suicide in its final phases, focusing on crisis hotlines, for example, rather than tackling depression earlier in life. Everyone acknowledged that friends, families and communities are the first line of defense.

Megan Gregory, a 24-year-old Tlingit originally from Kake, used her floor-time as a panelist to call on every Alaska Native organization in the state, from small tribes to big corporations, to create youth councils that foster new leaders, provide input to adults and create a network of eyes and ears who can watch out for troubled friends. “It will instill hope and confidence and suicide rates will drop dramatically,” said Gregory, who launched a Youth Ambassadors program in several Southeast Alaska communities so young people could work with school districts and other groups to combat suicides. She hopes to take it statewide.

Read more on the Alaska Dispatch website.

Rural Mental Health Emergency Center Awarded Top National Honor

Posted: November 17, 2011

Burke Center’s Mental Health Emergency Center (MHEC) received the American Psychiatric Association’s Gold Achievement Award for Community-based Programs for bringing innovative, cutting-edge psychiatric emergency services to the 12 rural East Texas counties they serve. The MHEC is the first free-standing, rural comprehensive psychiatric emergency program, and serves a population of 370,000 over 11,000 square miles. Since opening in 2008, the MHEC has served over 3,000 persons.

Burke Center CEO Susan Rushing said the APA’s award to the MHEC was the result of the collaborative efforts of stakeholders from across the region. “We live in a medically under-served, mental health shortage area,” said Rushing. “Getting partnerships from the state, our counties, cities, hospitals, law enforcement, as well as the TLL Temple Foundation, we were able to come to the table and find a solution together to make things better for people who are in crisis.”

“It is great to see Burke Center receive national recognition for its innovation in confronting the serious challenge that mental health emergencies pose in our local communities,” said State Representative Wayne Christian. “I am encouraged to see the public and private sectors work together to solve a problem; this relationship should serve as a model for the rest of the country to follow,” added Christian. “I count it an honor to have worked alongside State Rep. James White in the legislature in support of Burke Center’s efforts to help those who are least able to help themselves.”

For more information on the Mental Health Emergency Center program, call the Burke Center at 936-639-1141.

Read more on the Your Houston News website.


White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Update

Posted: November 16, 2011

On October 14, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Executive Order reestablishing the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (Initiative). The Initiative works to improve the quality of life and opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) by facilitating increased access to and participation in federal programs where they remain underserved.

The Initiative Co-Chair Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, blogged about increasing opportunity for AAPI communities and noted the Initiative's many accomplishments in the past two years. Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health, at the Department of Health and Human Services, also blogged about how efforts at data disaggregation helps to reduce health disparities for AAPIs, among other communities.

On October 29, 2011, the Initiative convened federal agency officials, business and community leaders, students, and parents for a Summit on Bullying Prevention at CUNY – Hunter College in New York City. Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez shed light on the administration’s priority to prevent bullying, emphasizing, “We must not just tolerate diversity, we must embrace diversity!” President’s Advisory Commissioner on AAPIs, Amardeep Singh, reflected on the importance of the Bullying Prevention Summit and ensuring a safe and bright future for all of our children. President’s Advisory Commissioner on AAPIs, Hector Vargas, shared his story of bullying and harassment as a gay youth and his hope for a safe future for LGBT, AAPI, and all students.

Have your voice heard on behavioral health issues affecting the AAPI community - join the Initiative on Facebook at Follow on Twitter at You can follow the Initiative Executive Director Kiran Ahuja on Twitter at

AHRQ’s Effective Health Care Program: Evidence-Based Resources in Spanish

Posted: November 15, 2011

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is partnering with Hispanic-serving organizations to promote the Agency's Spanish-language resources and to encourage consumers to become more active partners in their health care. AHRQ's easy-to-read resources help consumers understand the benefits and risks of treatment options and encourage shared decisionmaking between patients and their health care teams.

To encourage use of the materials and engage Hispanics in the discussion, AHRQ has also launched a Facebook Page. AHRQ's Spanish-language Effective Health Care Program patient guides are available online at To order printed copies, email the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse at or call 1-800-358-9295. For other AHRQ Spanish-language consumer tools, go to

To date, 10 organizations have signed a pledge of commitment to promote AHRQ's Spanish-language, evidence-based resources, including the National Hispanic Medical Association, Latino Student Medical Association, National Association of Hispanic Elderly, District of Columbia Office on Latino Affairs, National Latina Health Network, Telemundo and the National Center for Farmworkers Health.

To assist in this effort, AHRQ has launched the "Toma las riendas" ("Take the reins") campaign, a nationwide effort to encourage Hispanics to take control of their health and explore treatment options. The Toma las riendas campaign addresses the need for high-quality health information in Spanish. It promotes a wide variety of resources produced by AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program. These tools, which include consumer-friendly publications that summarize treatment options for common health conditions, help Hispanics work with their health care teams to select the best possible treatment option. The tools do not tell patients and doctors what to do but offer factual, unbiased information to help answer questions such as: What are the benefits and risks of different medical treatment? How strong is the science behind each option? Which treatment is most likely to work best for me?

Read more on the AHRQ website. Access AHRQ's Spanish-language Effective Health Care Program patient guides.

New Surveys Offer Details about Homeless

Posted: November 14, 2011

In Austin, TX scores of volunteers spent some time getting to know Austin's homeless people. And what they found, they hope, will help humanize those who live on the streets. Volunteers interviewed homeless people at parks, hospitals, shelters and other places. Interviewees were asked about things including their health, sleeping habits and support systems. "My hope is that we will break down myths about homelessness and somehow inspire more regular people to want to participate in making homelessness really rare," said Ann Howard, executive director of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, which spearheaded the effort.

The survey was Austin's part in the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a national three-year program to find homes for 100,000 of the country's most vulnerable and long-term homeless people. Austin's effort is called the 100 Homes Campaign. The information collected this week will be used to create a by-name registry to prioritize permanent housing for people who have been living on the street the longest. More than 20 local organizations — including the UT School of Social Work, Goodwill Industries and Travis County Integral Care — helped conduct the interviews.

Of the 289 surveys completed:

  • 72% of the respondents said they had a substance abuse problem
  • 48% had mental health issues
  • 24% had asthma
  • 83% had been to jail

Howard said she hopes the report will encourage more people to help find solutions for community homelessness. Read more on

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