NIHB Media Release                     

April 23, 2015



National Indian Health Board (NIHB) Elevates Native Health Issues at the Department of Health and Human Services

House Labor HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Holds Hearing on American Indian/Alaska Native Priorities


WASHINGTON DC - On April 23, 2015, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies held a Budget Hearing on Programs Serving Native Americans.  This subcommittee is responsible for allocating annual funding for agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (with the exception of the Indian Health Service (IHS) which receives funding from the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subocmmittee) and the Departments of Education, Labor and related agencies.  The hearing represented a historic opportunity for Tribal advocates to describe challenges that Indian Country faces when it comes to accessing federal programs at HHS and other federal agencies. 


Testifying before the subcommittee were National Indian Health Board (NIHB) Executive Director Stacy A. Bohlen (Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa); W. Ron Allen Tribal Chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe; and James Parrish, Executive Education Director of School Programs at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.


 "The federal trust

 responsibility to the Tribes extends to all agencies of the federal government.  When it comes to health, this is not just the Indian Health Service," said NIHB Executive Director Stacy A. Bohlen.  "With all these serious problems [in Indian Country], it is critical that Congress expand a support to build public health services and infrastructure in Indian Country."  NIHB highlighted the structural, administrative obstacles Tribes face when attempting to access HHS opportunities, such as block granting funds to the States with no assurance that Tribes will be able to access such funding.


All three witnesses emphasized the federal trust responsibility to Tribes when it comes to the federal programs funded through the Appropriations Committee.  One key point discussed by the panel was the need for Tribes to have better access to federal grant opportunities.  NIHB also stressed that federal programs serving Native Americans must be culturally appropriate and give Tribes greater control in operating programs for their people.  NIHB remains deeply committed to ensuring that the federal government upholds its trust responsibility to Tribes when it comes to health.   NIHB will stay actively engaged with the subcommittee so that we can restore healthy native communities.


NIHB was highly encouraged by the commitment of the Members of the Subcommittee to provide additional access for Tribes for programs at HHS.    "Indian Communities face extensive challenges related to health, unemployment, poverty, and education," said the subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK).  "There are obstacles that prevent these [federal] programs from meeting the nation's trust responsibility to Native Americans.  The goal of the hearing will be to define the challenges that exist for Native American Tribes in working with the federal government and learn about how the government could better serve them and be a better partner."  


Ranking Democratic Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) also stressed the importance of getting funding to Tribes.  "Partly as a result of poverty, historical and ongoing discrimination, and a lack of adequate resources, Native American Tribes face unique challenges...When compared to other populations, Native Americans have a shorter life expectancy, higher rates of mortality from diabetes and heart disease, and two and a half times the amount of suicide among the young... We owe it to your communities to make sure that they have adequate support."


You can read NIHB's written testimony here.


You can  view a webcast of the hearing here.




The National Health Board (NIHB) is a 501(c) 3 not for profit, charitable organization providing health care advocacy services, facilitating Tribal budget consultation and providing timely information and other services to all Tribal Governments. Whether Tribes operate their own health care delivery systems through contracting and compacting or receive health care directly from the Indian Health Services (IHS), NIHB is their advocate.  Because the NIHB serves all federally-recognized tribes, it is important that the work of the NIHB reflect the unity and diversity of Tribal values and opinions in an accurate, fair, and culturally-sensitive manner. The NIHB is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of representatives elected by the Tribes in each of the twelve IHS Areas. Each Area Health Board elects a representative and an alternate to sit on the NIHB Board of Directors.





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