UIO Highlight: Bakersfield American Indian Health Project Vehicle Transportation Services – Cleaning and Disinfection

Native American Heritage Month UIO Spotlight: All Nations Health Center

Native American Heritage Month is more than just a 30-day celebration, it’s a reminder that important work is happening every day to ensure Native communities everywhere have equitable access to services and representation.

NCUIH would like to introduce an Urban Indian Organization (UIO) and NCUIH member, All Nations Health Center in Missoula, Montana, who are at the frontlines of this important work and are representative of the imperative efforts of over 40 Urban Indian Organizations across the country.

We asked Executive Director, Skye McGinty (Little Shell Chippewa), MA, MBA, a few questions about their experiences in the UIO community, through the lens of All Nations, and what are some important things to keep in mind during Native American Heritage Month for both Native and Non-Native community members.

A picture of the All Nations team at their 3rd Annual 5K Fun Run and Walk.

 

Q: What do you wish the public knew about your services? Are there any misconceptions?

A: In late 2020, we changed our name from Missoula Urban Indian Health Center to All Nations Health Center to better reflect the culture of our clinic and our mission to provide holistic health services to the communities who live in and around Missoula. The biggest misconception in our community is that our services are only for Native people. While we do have an Indigenous perspective on the delivery of health services and our primary focus is on the Native population, we serve non-Natives, too. We hear time and time again from our non-Native clients that the kinds of services we provide and the way we deliver them is special and different compared to what you might experience in a Western medicine setting. If we could clear up any misconceptions, it’s that we provide services to truly all nations, and our Indigenous providers and services are for everyone.

 

Q: Why do you think organizations specific to serving Native communities are important?

A: It’s vital that Native people have access to services where their lived experiences are honored, they are reflected in the makeup of the staff, and strengthening their resiliency is at the top of the list of priorities. Native organizations provide that safety and honoring in ways that other organizations can’t. Good allyship from non-Native organizations is critical to moving the needle on issues that most deeply impact our Indigenous communities, but Native organizations already have the knowledge to reach our communities and make lasting, positive impacts. It’s imperative that we as Native people are leading the services that we provide to our communities.

 

Q: What’s the biggest challenge you face as an organization?

A: Aside from the obvious answer of COVID, our organization struggles with consistent levels of federal and state funding. Like many UIOs, our budget largely consists of a patchwork of different federal, state, and local grant initiatives. It’s hard to plan for sustainability when continuation applications, reporting requirements, and new grants are all due. Combined with the fact that UIOs have largely been left out of language in legislation that impacts our ability to be self-sustaining, finding reliable funding sources remains our largest challenge.  

 

Q: What excites you about the future of your facility?

A: I am most excited about having a truly integrated model of care for our patients in our new facility. Right now, our services are spread out among three facilities, and with the launch of our capital campaign, we’ll be able to consolidate all services in one brand new patient-centered medical home. I’m excited to bring on new providers to complement our current service offerings and to expand into new services that are comprehensive, holistic, and informed by Indigenous knowledge.

 

NCUIH is excited to share the experience of All Nations and recognize the many other essential UIOs providing vital services to their communities across the country. You can check out the full list of UIO NCUIH Members here. We hope this Native American Heritage Month, we can all re-center the needs of our urban Native communities across Indian Country. Sharing challenges, celebrating how far we’ve come, and looking forward to the future are all incredible ways to stay involved this month and always.

 

Looking for a way to engage with NCUIH and help raise awareness and much-needed funds towards social health equity? Register today for the #MoveWithNCUIH Native American Heritage Month Virtual 5k! Together we will walk, run, bike, swim (or however you choose to move) from a safe distance and celebrate our efforts virtually with one another.

 

Sign-up to #MoveWithNCUIH today!

PRESS RELEASE: Bipartisan Padilla-Moran-Lankford NCUIH Amendment for Urban Indian Health Passes Senate

The technical fix will be critical to improving health infrastructure for off-reservation American Indians and Alaska Natives.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 8.2.21

Media Contact: National Council of Urban Indian HealthMeredith Raimondi, Director of Congressional Relations MRaimondi@ncuih.org 202-417-7781

Washington, D.C. (August 2, 2021) – On Monday, the Senate voted on amendments to the bipartisan infrastructure package including the Padilla-Moran-Lankford Urban Indian Health Amendment, which passed 90-7. The National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) has worked closely on a bipartisan basis for the past year on this technical legislative fix to support health care for tribal members who reside off of reservations. This amendment would allow existing resources to be used to fund infrastructure projects within the Indian health system.

“We applaud Senators Padilla, Moran, Lankford, Rounds, Smith, Feinstein, Schatz, and Schumer for their steadfast and tireless leadership on behalf of Indian Country. This technical fix will be critical to expanding health care infrastructure for Native communities who have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also thank the National Congress of American Indians for their partnership in advocating for improved outcomes for all of Indian Country,” said Francys Crevier (Algonquin), CEO of NCUIH.

Next Steps

The Senate will continue to debate amendments to the bipartisan infrastructure plan. In the meantime, NCUIH will continue to advocate for $21 billion for Indian health infrastructure in the budget reconciliation package from the a joint letter led by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) on April 13, 2021.

Background

“Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs) are a lifeline to Native Americans living in urban areas across California,” said Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA). “Yet, UIOs are prohibited from using Indian Health Service funding for facilities, maintenance, equipment, and other necessary construction upgrades. During the pandemic, many UIOs couldn’t get approval for ventilation upgrades, heaters, generators, and weatherization equipment. Removing this unjust burden on UIOs is a commonsense fix and would allow them to improve the quality of the culturally competent care that they provide.”

“Oklahoma has the second-largest Urban Indian patient population and is proudly served in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City clinics. We should continue to improve health care access for our Urban Indian population and broaden the flexibility for Urban Indian Organizations’ use of facilities renovation dollars, in addition to those for accreditation, to meet patient needs,” said Senator James Lankford (R-OK).

“The impacts of COVID-19 will be with our Native communities for a long time to come. It is critical that the Indian Health Care Center of Santa Clara Valley and other UIOs be able to provide a safe environment for the families and patients we serve. We are extremely grateful for Senator Padilla’s leadership in rectifying a longstanding barrier preventing us from using existing funding to make urgent upgrades,” said Sonya Tetnowski (Makah), CEO of Indian Health Care Center of Santa Clara Valley, President of California Consortium for Urban Indian Health (CCUIH), and President-elect of NCUIH.

“It is time to live out this Country’s commitment to each other to live with respect for one another and in community. With this legislation, Friendship House in San Francisco will build a home village site for our urban Native Americans, so that our people may contribute to saving and enriching our homeland, which we must now all share and care for or lose. We greatly appreciate Senator Padilla’s leadership on this issue,” said Abby Abinanti (Yurok), President of the Friendship House Association of American Indians Board of Directors.

UIOs lack access to facilities funding under the general IHS budgetary scheme, meaning there is no specifically allocated funding for UIO facilities, maintenance, sanitation, or medical equipment, among other imperative facility needs. While the whole IHS system has made the transition to telehealth, negative pressurizing rooms, and other facility renovations to safely serve patients during the pandemic, restrictions in the relevant statutory text did not allow UIOs to make those transitions. Section 509 currently permits the IHS to provide UIOs with funding for minor renovations and only in order to assist UIOs in meeting or maintaining compliance with the accreditation standards set forth by The Joint Commission (TJC).

These restrictions on facilities funding under Section 509 have ultimately prevented UIO facilities from obtaining the funds necessary to improve the safety and quality of care provided to American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) persons in urban settings. Without such facilities funding, UIOs are forced to draw from limited funding pools, from which they must also derive their limited funding for AI/AN patient services. This lack of facility funding for UIOs is a breach of the federal trust obligation to AI/AN health care beneficiaries, necessitating congressional action to include UIOs in future legislative measures for IHS facility funding.

In May, Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE) introduced the Urban Indian Health Facilities Provider Act (H.R. 3496) in the House of Representatives which expands the use of existing IHS resources under Section 509 of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) (25 U.S.C. § 1659) to increase the funding authority for renovating, constructing, and expanding Urban Indian Organizations (UIO). Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA), James Lankford (R-OK) along with co-sponsors Moran (R-KS), Feinstein (D-CA), and Smith (D-MN) on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee introduced the identical Senate bill (S. 1797).

Last month, NCUIH testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States (SCIP) and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) in support of the Urban Indian Health Facilities Provider Act (H.R. 3496 / S. 1797). Sonya Tetnowski (Makah Tribe), NCUIH President-Elect and Chief Executive Officer of the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley, testified before SCIP and Robyn Sunday-Allen (Cherokee), NCUIH Vice President and CEO of the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, testified before SCIA.

This fix is broadly supported in Indian Country and the National Congress of American Indians passed a resolution in June to “Call for Congress to Amend Section 509 of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) to Remove Facility Funding Barriers for Urban Indian Organizations”.

American Indians have the highest COVID vaccination rate in the US

American Indians have the highest COVID vaccination rate in the US | PBS

 

According to CDC data, Indigenous people are getting vaccinated quicker than any other group. Here are the successes—and challenges—of getting vaccines to urban Native American communities.

Before getting vaccinated against COVID-19 was an option, Francys Crevier was afraid to leave her Maryland home.

She ordered all of her groceries and limited her time outside, knowing that each venture would put both herself and her immunocompromised mother, with whom Crevier shares her home, at risk. Knowing she could provide for Mom was “a blessing, for sure,” Crevier says. After all, American Indians and Alaska Natives were hospitalized and died from COVID-19 at a higher rate than any other racial group in America throughout the pandemic, says Crevier, who’s Algonquin.

“As a Native woman, I didn’t know if I was going to make it through this,” she says.

Indeed, the U.S. Indigenous population had more than 3.5 times the infection rate, more than four times the hospitalization rate, and a higher mortality rate than white Americans, reports the Indian Health Service (IHS), a federal health program for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Official data reveal that the Navajo Nation, the largest tribe in the U.S., has been one of the hardest-hit populations, reporting one of the country’s highest per-capita COVID-19 infection rates in May 2020, the Navajo Times reports

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