WISEFAMILIES opens office in Wrangell

Posted: Sunday, March 01, 2009

WRANGELL - The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium recently opened an office in Wrangell, and Tammi Meissner was hired to manage the new WISEFAMILIES Through Customary and Traditional Living program in the community.

New WISEFAMILIES programs in Wrangell and Kake are funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is modeling the programs after a similar Indian Health Service-funded program in Klukwan. Program participants learn how to harvest and preserve traditional subsistence foods, Tlingít language, story-telling and other traditional activities such as carving and weaving. These traditional activities improve overall health and wellness, and research shows that a diet full of traditional foods can be a good way to prevent many chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

A lifelong Wrangell resident, Meissner graduated cum laude from the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education. Her Tlingít name is X'atshaawditee, and she is Eagle moiety from the X'atgu Hít (Dogfish House) in the Naanyaa.aayí clan.

Meissner has worked as a substitute teacher, construction worker, summer recreation director, lifeguard, social services advocate, Johnson O'Malley (JOM) program director, high school basketball coach, basketball referee and U.S. Forest Service wilderness ranger. She is involved in the Native JOM program, which makes Tlingít regalia such as blankets, headbands and moccasins, and also studies Native culture and traditions. Meissner and her husband, Greg, have two daughters. She is interested in community and individual wellness, and spending time with her family.

The WISEFAMILIES program also partners with Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 1. The office is located in the SNO Building, 325 Front St., in Wrangell, 99929 (P.O. Box 1411). The phone number is 907-874-2712, and the fax number is 907-874-2713. The SNO Building is owned by Tlingít and Haida Regional Housing Authority, which is renting the office space to SEARHC at a reduced rate.

A full-time referral care coordinator with the SEARHC Community Resources Program (formerly Contract Health) will share office space with WISEFAMILIES, once a person is hired to fill the position. The coordinator will assist SEARHC patients with their medical appointments and travel to and from Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka or the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. The coordinator also will work with patients needing Medicaid reservations, and with Native patients using approved services (such as dental) through Alaska Island Community Services and Wrangell Medical Center.

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