Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) Yakama Indian Health Service Healthy Heart Program participated in a site visit from Senator Patty Murray’s Central Washington office staff

On September 24, 2013, the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) Yakama Indian Health Service Healthy Heart Program participated in a site visit from Senator Patty Murray’s Central Washington office staff. The event was hosted by Yakama Nation Tribal Liaison Mathew Tomaskin and Director of Human Services Jerry Meninick. Rebecca Thornton, Central Washington Legislative Assistant to Senator Patty Murray, welcomed the opportunity to visit the clinic and acquire more awareness on how the program has impacted the community and participants regarding the effects of diabetes in the Alaska Native/American Indian (AN/AI) population.

Ms. Thornton was greeted by Yakama Indian Health staff Chief Executive Officer Jay Sampson, Clinical Director Michelle Womack, Management Analyst Pam Leslie, Yakama Healthy Heart Director Dr. Rex Quaempts, and Yakama Healthy Heart Coordinator Robin John. Also in attendance was Portland Area Indian Health Service Director of Tribal and Service Unit Operations Roselyn Tso. Ronn Washines, Yakama Nation Review Program Administrator, provided media coverage.

During her official visit, Ms. Thornton observed first hand the effect that diabetes and diabetic complications have on the AN/AI population. With close to 1,300 patients with diabetes utilizing Yakama Indian Health Clinic (YIHC), the medical burden is staggering. Ms. Thornton was able to witness the influence the SDPI Yakama Health Heart Program has had on its participants and the community in combating the health complications of diabetes.

A presentation was conducted by Dr. Rex Quaempts and Robin John demonstrating the history of SDPI, implementation of the grant at YIHC, and the clinical outcomes by SDPI participants and how those outcomes affected the total diabetic population at YIHC. The clinical outcomes validate the positive results the SDPI program has had on the reduction of cardiovascular risk disease among patients with diabetes.

The program provides one on one intensive clinical case management by pharmacists as the main diabetic intervention. The pharmacist case managers are able to perform basic assessments, obtain vitals, prescribe medications through collaborative practice agreements, order labs, and implement a diabetes care plan complete with education and goal setting. Participants meet with their case manager on a routine and regular basis, usually monthly to coincide with medication refills. The Yakama Healthy Heart Program has over 350 active patients enrolled and have met and exceeded all Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) target goals since inception in 2005. Participant success stories were also shared, including the Elders Campaign which focuses on prominent elders within the community that have controlled their diabetes. One elder is chosen each year for this honor and a poster is created describing the unique way this person has treated his/her diabetes. This artwork is displayed in the clinic and presented to the elder at a large community event.

The Yakama Healthy Heart Program strives to meet the community needs and the mission to provide prevention services also. The program hosts at least one to two community events each month to provide participants and the general population with opportunities for physical activity and education. Many events are culturally and traditionally centered with activities such as traditional food gathering (root digging and huckleberry picking), Dance Away Diabetes (a Pow Wow dance style exercise class) and Bison Distribution, to name a few. Ms. Thornton was captivated by the amount of events and how they met a wide variety of target audiences.

Ms. Thornton also experienced a tour of the facility and how the SDPI Yakama Healthy Heart Program intertwined with other departments to meet and exceed grant objectives and goals. She witnessed the collaboration within the clinic and with other programs. Partnerships with tribal programs, universities, community programs, health facilities, and spiritual entities are vital in meeting those objectives, as the epidemic of diabetes is increasing across the globe. The incidence of diabetes among AN/AI is 2.3 times higher than non-Hispanic white population and at YIHC the rate is 14.8%, or double the rate in Washington State.

YIHC staff joined Ms. Thornton with a tour of the Yakama Nation Diabetes Center, which is a SDPI Community Grant funded program. The focus of the Diabetes Center is diabetes prevention which compliments the goals of reducing the rate of diabetes. While at the center, she was able to meet Yakama Healthy Heart participant Jeff YellowOwl who was coming to exercise on his lunch hour. Mr. YellowOwl gave credit to his case manager and the Yakama Healthy Heart Program for being instrumental in losing over 90 pounds and becoming ABC (blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol) controlled. By achieving ABC control, Mr. YellowOwl will see a 30-50% cardiovascular disease risk reduction. Ms. Thornton was very excited to discuss his success and was able to experience the positive actions the program has had first hand.

The visit concluded with a short walk back to the YIHC and an exchange of contact information. Ms. Thornton informed the staff that she was very impressed with the work that had been done and the accomplishments achieved. She stated that she will make sure that Senator Patty Murray understands the impact SDPI has had on the community and that Yakama Healthy Heart Program has become a stewardship in the battle of diabetes, especially in Indian country. Bringing the Senator to an actual site visit will be on the top of her priorities.