Gunalcheesh to SEARHC
My favorite Christmas movie is It's A Wonderful Life. I love it that George Bailey saves Bedford Falls from becoming Pottersville. I love that he gets a chance to see what life would have been like for his community if he hadn't done the things he did. Imagine Haines without the SEARHC clinic.
The Southeast Alaska Health Consortium (SEARHC) was founded in 1975 by 16 Tlingit women, all but one from small Southeast villages, because they were desperate for quality health care for their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews who were not thriving. In many places they were receiving only the bare minimum of health care. These "aunties" -- ( a Tlingit term of endearment, most were actually grandmothers-) didn't hold a grudge against the society that had allowed things to get so dire, luckily, from the very beginning they opened their clinics to non-Natives.
Haines did not need a SEARHC clinic because we had a good one, privately owned by Dr. Jones. When he retired a group of concerned citizens (myself included) founded Lynn Canal Medical, a private non-profit, in large part thanks to a generous grant from Klukwan Inc. We limped along, but there was not enough volume to make it work without a government subsidy. We couldn't provide 24 hour coverage, an emergency room, keep up with medical technology, maintain equipment, or pay the staff enough-(much less provide community wellness programs, dental care and physical therapy services.) The billing (insurance, medicare, medicaid) was a nightmare. The old building needed work. Enter the Tlingit aunties of SEARHC. They took over our ailing community clinic and transformed it. Thanks to them, Haines now has a state-of-the-art rural medical facility, with a great staff that cares for all of us (and they hire a lot of local people too.) I can't help but think that without it, we would not be nearly as attractive to wealthy retirees or second home owners. Sure there are snafus that come with any large organization. But honestly, think of the alternative. Let's play the It's a Wonderful Life game with SEARHC. The one about what would life have been like in Haines these years without their clinic? I know I wouldn't be here. Who in your family wouldn't be at this year's Christmas dinner? Which neighbor? Which friend?
Tlingit elder David Katzeek spoke at a potlatch in Klukwan a few years ago. He said that sometimes "thank you" is the greatest speech you can make. He also said that it means more if you use the Tlingit word than the English one, even if you mispronounce it.
Gunalcheesh to the Haines SEARHC clinic.