Sobering Realities

Al Mahoney’s life could be a novel someday.

Al’s story is one of youthful exuberance, long-term homelessness, drunken violence, near-death experiences, and ultimately redemption. By his own account, he’s lucky to be alive.

“Al is an exception to the rule,” says Two Feathers, a community outreach worker with Heritage Health. “At first, it was how many days can you be sober, then weeks and then months. We made sure to contact and support him on a daily basis. As time went by, he didn’t need as much from us. Then we started helping him with his life skills.”

For nearly 40 years alcohol dominated this man’s life. Eventually, he decided to confront alcoholism and start a new life of sobriety.

“The credit goes to Two Feathers and TJ Byrne,” says Al. “They saved my life. All of the people at Heritage Health really care.”

Heritage Health’s Street Medicine program looked after Al. Two Feathers and Byrne, a Physician Assistant, helped him stop drinking, making sure his medical and emotional needs were being met on a daily basis.

The details of Al’s life are still a little foggy. The 56-year-old Coeur d’Alene man has been battling alcoholism with repeated stints in rehabilitation centers across the country.

None of his recovery efforts or treatments worked for the fiercely independent man.

“Once I got out of rehab in Florida and within hours I was drinking again,” he says. “I couldn’t stop.”

Al is a survivor.

He was shot in the head, but he doesn’t remember why.

He points to a metal rod in his leg which had to be inserted after a car ran him over. He has been to prison too. He spent 27 months in an Iowa prison after clobbering a college student over the head with a chair during a poker game.

He’s been arrested countless times.

The common dominator in those situations has always been alcohol.

“At first, I was young and adventurous,” he says. “I just grew tired of my life. I wanted something better for myself.”

Heritage Health provided the resources to ensure he could achieve his goals – even if that meant giving him a ride to see a counselor or just helping him with day-to-day struggles.

“Heritage Health was there for me,” says Al. “They went beyond just doing their jobs. They saved my life. I am so much better off today than I was.”

Despite having long-term health issues, Al is optimistic about the future. He’s working as a janitor at a local business. He is also off the streets.

“Things are going great,” says Al. “I feel great. I am moving into a new apartment. It’s been six months since I have had a drink. That has been hard. It’s a fight for sure, but I know I can do it.”


Due to concerns with the coronavirus COVID-19, our organization has postponed our upcoming beeBOLD Community Breakfast event. This information will continue to be updated. If you have already RSVP'd, we will be in contact providing updates.

Heritage Health exists for the sole purpose of delivering a healthcare experience that provides hope, inspires change and extend the lives of our patients and our community.

Our focus for 2020 is “beeBOLD” in everything you do. Please join us for our annual update, where we will share our impact on our community, what our goals are for the future and how you can be a part of it all.

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Introducing Telehealth

Heritage Health now offering


Heritage Health is now offering telehealth for its medical, behavioral health and psychiatric patients in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

This new option will allow Heritage Health’s 30,000 patients to address medical problems, both ongoing and new, says Heritage Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Peter Purrington.

“This gives health care providers a vital tool to help our patients,” says Purrington. “It will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus and lessen the burden on our community’s health care systems. Patients concerned about having the coronavirus could speak with their doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner virtually to learn about testing and what they should do next.”

Using telehealth, patients can consult with a medical professional via phone and/or computer.

Telehealth also gives patients with ongoing issues a mechanism to see their provider from the comfort of their own home. For example, a patient with diabetes wouldn’t have to postpone a regular follow-up visit with their provider. The patient could communicate with their provider via the phone or with many video platforms, such as Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp.

Medicare officials said on Tuesday that it will expand coverage for telemedicine across the country to help seniors with health problems stay at home to avoid contracting the coronavirus.

Previously, Medicare patients were limited in their coverage when they used telehealth and would previously only receive coverage for routine services in certain circumstances, such as if they lived in a remote location. But the federal government said that Medicare would temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services to its patients including mental health counseling, common office visits, and preventative health screenings.

Patients using telehealth are normally required to fill out waivers before accessing telehealth, but those waivers can be done verbally and documented during your telehealth visit.

“Your medical information will continue to be confidential,” said Purrington. “We want our patients and families to be confident that they can use telehealth as a trusted resource to communicate with their medical or behavioral health provider.”

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COVID-19 (Corona Virus)

COVID-19 information hotline


In an effort to reduce the burden of calls on Healthcare Facilities, Panhandle Health has coordinated an Information Hotline to address any and all questions/concerns. 

Coronavirus Disease

Q. What are coronaviruses?

A: Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. They are a respiratory virus named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. We are currently aware of seven different types of human coronaviruses, four of which are associated with mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. Other types of the virus include severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, (MERS) and Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), which is responsible for the latest outbreak. Although COVID-19 is similar to the other types of coronaviruses, it is unique in many ways and we are still learning more each day.


Q. How do you get infected with COVID-19?

A: COVID-19 is spread by close person-to-person contact from droplets from a cough or sneeze, which can get into your mouth, nose, or lungs. Close contact is defined as being within approximately 6 feet of another person. There aren’t many cases in the U.S., so the risk of contracting COVID-19 is low.


Q. How do I know if I have COVID-19?

A: If you were recently exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or have been in a place where an outbreak has occurred within the last two weeks the following symptoms could indicate you have contracted COVID-19: - fever; - cough; or - shortness of breath. Unless your symptoms are severe, it is recommended you call your healthcare provider first before entering a healthcare facility. When speaking with a healthcare provider in-person or on the phone, be sure to note your symptoms, travel history, or if you were exposed to a person diagnosed with the virus.


Q. How severe is this illness?

A: The World Health Organization says 80% of people with COVID-19 have a mild form of the illness with cold- or flulike symptoms. The people most likely to get seriously ill from this virus are people over 60 and/or those with pre-existing health conditions. It is estimated that for every 100 cases of COVID-19, between two and four people would die. This is very different from a coronavirus like SARS, where nearly ten in 100 sick people died from the illness.


Q. I see people wearing masks, should I be doing that?

A: Health officials in the U.S. do not recommend the use of masks among people not showing symptoms of COVID-19. People in places where spread is more likely, may have been instructed to wear masks to prevent infecting others and to possibly prevent getting ill from close contact in crowded places.


Q. What can I do to prevent getting sick from COVID-19?

A: The following tips will help to prevent COVID-19 as well as other respiratory viruses: • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

  • Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are showing symptoms of illness.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Cover your cough or sneezes with a tissue or sneeze into your elbow. Throw the tissue in the garbage and make sure to clean your hands afterwards.
  • Stay home when you are sick


Revised 2/27/2020