The SEARHC Foundation, a nonprofit corporation founded in 2001 to help cover the growing cost of health care in Southeast Alaska, gave its first grant on Monday to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.
"This is a big step for SEARHC," said Ken Brewer, president of SEARHC and member of the SEARHC Foundation board of directors. "We're fulfilling a wish that we made three years ago when we realized that we weren't fulfilling the health care needs of Native Southeast Alaskans."
SEARHC was founded in 1975 as a Native-run administrator of comprehensive health care for Alaskan Natives in Southeast Alaska. According to the Web site for the Indian Health Services, www.ihs.gov, the U.S. government has had a mandate to provide health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives since it passed the Snyder Act in 1921.
In 1977, the federal government gave tribes the option of independently administering their health care programs as a way to maximize the quality and quantity of health services available to American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Today, federal funding for Native health care covers only 60 percent of what the federal government has determined to be necessary, said Brewer. Faced with these shortages, Brewer and other SEARHC employees and board members decided to found a philanthropic organization separate from SEARHC that would provide necessary funding for its activities.
The foundation received some capacity-building grants to establish an office and hire an executive director, said Joe Kahklen, who serves as president of the foundation's board. He said the foundation raised money for its initial grant to SEARHC with direct donations from businesses and individuals over the course of nine months.
Ray Vidic, executive director of the SEARHC Foundation, said he hopes to implement an employee giving campaign for SEARHC employees, in addition to direct giving campaigns such as the one that helped raise money for this grant.
"Rural areas face shortages that you would never even think about in urban areas," said Lincoln Bean, chairman of the SEARHC board. "Escorting elders when they need to travel, getting the medical supplies to the rural locations, these are the kinds of expenses we need to cover."
"SEARHC doesn't cover all of health care, particularly in pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and transportation," said Brewer. "The intent of the foundation is to supplement those out-of-pocket expenses, particularly in emergency situations."
"Because federal funding for all kinds of programs has really decreased over the last several years, and I don't see it growing anytime soon, the foundation's success is really important," said Kahklen. He said the foundation hopes to build a million-dollar endowment over the next three years with money from private donors and businesses.
For more information on the foundation's activities, contact Vidic at 463-4673. For more information on SEARHC, visit its Web site, www.searhc.org.
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.