Tegan Hanlon

As a lawsuit over Medicaid expansion continues to play out in court, six legislators met Thursday on separate, party-specific panels and highlighted that the public health care program for low-income Alaskans will again rise as a hot-button and divisive issue during the upcoming legislative session. The lawmakers divided along party lines in their views on Gov. Bill Walker’s decision to expand Medicaid and the lawsuit filed by the Legislature that soon followed. But where lawmakers could agree at the annual State of Reform Health Policy Conference in downtown Anchorage is that changes must be made to the existing Medicaid program. The question of what changes remains. “One thing we all agreed on accepting is reform,” said Gov. Bill Walker, a keynote speaker at Thursday’s conference. “...Tegan Hanlon
A pilot program has launched within the Alaska Veterans Affairs Healthcare System that aims to revert the process of scheduling medical appointments to how it was before the implementation of the Choice Program , the office of Sen. Dan Sullivan said Wednesday. Alaska veterans who want to schedule appointments will no longer have their calls routed to Outside employees of TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the Arizona-based company hired to run the massive nationwide Choice Program, said Mike Anderson, Sullivan's press secretary. Instead, veterans will speak directly with Alaska VA staff like they used to do, Anderson said. “Senator Sullivan has heard from numerous Alaskan vets who would like to see things ‘go back to the way they were before choice,’” Anderson said in an email. “Senator...Tegan Hanlon
Starting next year, Alaskans can become pharmacists without having to leave the state thanks to a new partnership between the University of Alaska Anchorage and Idaho State University. UAA announced Tuesday that students can apply to the joint pharmacy program -- the university’s latest effort to produce more graduates with specific degrees in hopes that they stay in Alaska and join the state’s workforce. Between 10 and 15 first-year students will begin their schooling through the program next fall and hopefully graduate four years later as homegrown pharmacists, said Tom Wadsworth, ISU assistant dean of Alaska programs. Wadsworth observed that while some pharmacists work in Alaska for decades, others come from Outside and leave within a few years. The new program will reduce that...Tegan Hanlon
Anchorage police asked for help Tuesday to find suspects involved in two shootings that prompted four schools to lock their doors and go into emergency security modes. Around 2:30 p.m., a 911 caller reported shots fired in Mountain View near the 3400 block of Peterkin Avenue, Jennifer Castro, spokeswoman for the Anchorage Police Department, said in a news release. Police officers responded and found shell casings, she said. It was reported to police that three young men were in a white 2000 Chevrolet Malibu and one of them shot at the building. The car's license plate was ESZ305. They fled the scene, Castro said. Meanwhile, Tyson Elementary School and Mountain View Elementary School went into "stay put" status. All students and staff were brought inside. Staff locked all doors and windows...Tegan Hanlon
A proposed change to statewide regulations may ease the path toward special education services for Alaska students with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders by expanding the range of professionals who can diagnose the condition, according to medical and special education professionals. Under current regulations , students are eligible for special education services, in part, if a physician diagnoses them with a health impairment that adversely affects their performance in school. The change would broaden that for FASD to include diagnoses from advanced nurse practitioners certified in psychiatry or family practices. Some said they want the proposed changes to go even further. Marilyn Pierce-Bulger called the current regulations “incredibly outdated.” Under state law, medical doctors or...Tegan Hanlon
Juneau police officer Brent Bartlett said he turned around his patrol car Wednesday morning when he saw what looked like “a little brown puffball” in the road. It turned out to be a tiny, injured owl. Bartlett put on gloves, picked up the owl and called the Juneau Raptor Center, a nonprofit that treats injured raptors and other birds. Winds had whipped through town overnight and Bartlett said he thought the storm may have left the owl hurt or “just exhausted.” “He was not acting like a wild bird,” Bartlett said. He asked a police dispatcher to set up a makeshift nest. But before Bartlett returned to the office, he responded to a report of a found purse. The owl, he quipped, "was my backup." At the office, the tiny owl posed for a few photos and nestled into a blanket tucked into a...Tegan Hanlon
Three Alaska schools were among the 335 National Blue Ribbon Schools recognized Tuesday for their overall academic excellence or progress in closing the achievement gap. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan named Bear Valley Elementary School , a public school in South Anchorage; Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Sciences , a public charter school in Kenai; and Mat-Su Career and Technical High School , a public school in Wasilla, to the annual list. The honor recognizes “exemplary high performing schools,” a category that weighs standardized test scores, high school graduation rates and the performance of different subgroups of students, such as those from low-income families. The Department of Education will honor the schools at a November recognition ceremony in Washington, D.C.Tegan Hanlon
A black bear walked into a Juneau apartment building early Tuesday and got lost, leaving police with the job of going in to find it. But before police could spot the bear, it appears to have climbed onto a desk, which toppled, and exited the downtown building through a broken window. No one was hurt, but at least one person got an unwelcome visitor in their apartment, the Juneau Police Department said in a Facebook post . The police response started around 12:25 a.m. Tuesday after a resident of Fosbee Apartments on Disdin Avenue reported the intruder, said Erann Kalwara, a Juneau police spokesperson. According to the department's Facebook post, the bear entered the building's laundry room through a door "thought to be accidentally left open and later closed." Residents stored overflow...Tegan Hanlon
The Alaska Legislature’s lawsuit to block Gov. Bill Walker’s Medicaid expansion will continue in state Superior Court after a House-Senate committee met behind closed doors Monday to discuss the litigation, but declined to stop it with a public vote. “Personally, I don’t believe that litigation is a productive course of action,” Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, said after the Joint Legislative Council meeting. “However, as I look at the passion on both sides of this issue, no one is going to be satisfied until litigation is complete.” That could take up two years, he said. In July, with the Legislature adjourned for the interim between sessions, Walker announced he would use his executive powers to accept federal funds and expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act...Tegan Hanlon
At first, Elizabeth Wilson thought the East High School student who showed up at her house just wanted to spend time with her daughters -- but then he started arriving even when the girls weren’t there. He had homework to do. "Finally it was like, 'Oh, he’s always using the graphing calculator,'" Wilson said on a recent weekday afternoon. "He told me he couldn’t afford one." Wilson noticed that at some schools, graphing calculators only highlighted the gap between the haves and the have-nots. That's because prices can approach $140 for newer models of the technology, a staple of advanced math courses for decades. The inequity had a simple and reachable solution, she thought: Get more calculators. So Wilson, a stay-at-home mom with a penchant for giving back, started a grass-roots “...Tegan Hanlon