From Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, MD, FACEP

Welcome to the December State of Alaska Chief Medical Officer (CMO) newsletter. I hope you all had a happy holiday. To all of you who worked this holiday season, thank you for your dedication to the health of Alaskans. To the neurosurgeon who took that 1 a.m. call, the family practice provider who answered a panicked call from a patient, the hospitalist who made rounds before running home to be with family, the nurse who helped a patient with depression and many more, I know you all sacrifice time with friends, family and loved ones to do the important work you do. My hope is that along with all of your hard work serving Alaskans, you find opportunities to recharge and enjoy time with loved ones.

This month we’ll talk about how to be involved in Alaska’s government from a provider’s perspective.  As we head into the legislative season, I wanted to share thoughts on the governor’s budget and how the public can comment on proposed regulations and new laws as they move through the process. Your voice as a provider is critical and I hope this newsletter content provides you with an introductory road map to the legislative and regulatory process.

Also included this month is information about a new medication assisted treatment guide for opioid use disorder, behavioral health crisis intervention, the flu season so far and more.

I wish you all the best for the coming year. I look forward to working with you in 2020 as we continue together to improve Alaska’s health systems, and the health and wellness of all Alaskans. — Full Article

In this issue:

Medication Assisted Treatment Guide
DHSS’ Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) recently completed and released the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Guide, a new resource for health care providers to assist in understanding the steps needed to implement office-based, medication assisted treatment services for opioid use disorder. – Full Article

EVALI Update
Alaska confirms its first e-cigarette, or vaping, product-use associated lung injury (EVALI) case, plus what providers should look for and how to report. – Full Article

Healthy Alaskans
HA2030, Alaska’s health improvement plan that will guide Alaska for the next 10 years, is due to be released later in January. – Full Article

Infectious Disease Updates
This month we talk about the flu, measles, and a respiratory disease outbreak at an Anchorage elementary school. – Full Article

Medicaid Updates
This month we cover the reinstatement of the Adult Enhanced Dental Program and the ending of the Golden Ticket Pilot Project.
Full Article

Behavioral Health Updates
Learn about plans for a proposed national suicide hotline, more updates to administrative services organization (ASO) and more.
Full Article

DHSS Administrative Updates
Deb Etheridge, acting director of Senior and Disabilities Services (SDS), is leaving DHSS to work for Optum Health. John Lee, interim chief executive officer of Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) is stepping back into the director role for SDS.

Explaining the Regulatory Process
Why did they make that law? This makes no sense! What does this all even mean? Very few of us received any training in medical school about how a bill becomes a statute, a statute becomes a regulation and then how regulations affect the practice of medicine, but as more and more health care is discussed in the political realm, it is important to understand how this all works so you can share your voice. Here is a primer on how bills are passed and regulations are made in Alaska. – Full Article

Response Resources for Opioid/Substance Use Disorder
This section includes several upcoming and ongoing training opportunities for health care providers to help treat opioid use disorder and substance use disorder. – Full Article

DHSS Highlight: Chronic Disease Prevention and Health
Promotion Webinars

Did you know that the Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Promotion within the Division of Public Health at DHSS offers a free webinar series about public health projects and partnerships in Alaska? – Full Article

DHSS Online Public Notices
You can search all state public notices online or sign up to receive email notifications for new notices or based on custom search criteria at: State of Alaska online public notices. Here are several recent online notices we thought would be of interest to providers. – Full Article

Connect with DHSS

Office hours: Thank you to Alaska Regional Hospital for hosting office hours last month. Providers had great questions, many of which I tried to address in this newsletter. I am now regularly holding office hours at health care facilities around Alaska so I can hear concerns directly from the health care community. If you are interested in having me come to your office, clinic or hospital to hold one of these meetings, please contact Program Coordinator Doniel Wolfe 907-334-2474.

Providers as advisors: We’re building a database of providers who are willing to be contacted via email or phone regarding ongoing state health care issues. For example, on the topic of vaccine hesitancy, we hope to reach out to primary care providers to better understand vaccine hesitancy and how the state can support you in your work.

If you are willing to occasionally be contacted by me, or other DHSS employees regarding clinical input or administrative questions and concerns, please send your name, email, phone, specialty, and primary location of practice to Doniel Wolfe or call  907-334-2474. Thank you to those who have already contacted us; we are appreciative of our growing list of providers!

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Jan. 8-9 – Caring for Victims of Violence with a Multidisciplinary Approach

Jan. 21 – First Day of the 2nd Regular Session of the 31st Alaska Legislature

Jan. 21-23 – Alaska Health Summit, Alaska Public Health Association, Anchorage, Alaska.

View all events


DHSS releases Medication Assisted Treatment Guide to assist providers in implementing opioid treatment services
State of Alaska DHSS Press Release, 12/20/19

View all publications


Each month, we will share a handful of podcasts, books and journal articles that we think may of interest to Alaska’s health care providers. – Full Article


State of Alaska
Department of Health and Social Services
Website: http://dhss.alaska.gov/
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