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NCUIH Sends Letter in Support of the IHS Request to Detail Public Health Service Commissioned Officers to Urban Indian Organizations

On May 24, 2022, the National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) sent a letter to the Chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1), and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and to the Ranking Members Representative David Joyce (R-OH-14) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), expressing NCUIH’s support for detailing Public Health Service Commission Officers (PHSCOs) to Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs). Detailing officers to UIOs would assist UIO personnel in providing skilled, culturally competent healthcare, help address workforce shortages, and increase collaboration across the federal healthcare system.

Amending the law would provide the Indian Health Service (IHS) with the discretionary authority to detail PHSCOs directly to a UIO to perform work related to the functions of the Service. Such authority would be comparable to the existing authority to detail Officers to Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) contractors and compactors for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of their ISDEAA contracts (section 7 of the Act of August 5, 1954 (42 U.S.C. § 2004b). The bill would support the 41 UIOs that serve the 70% of American Indians and Alaska Natives that live outside of reservations. Currently, UIOs only get 1% of IHS funding, so to fully staff UIOs, Public Health Service Commissioned Officers need to be deployed.

The Biden Administration and IHS support this deployment of PHSCOs to UIOs by including the provision in their Fiscal Year 2023 budget. NCUIH urges Chair Pingree and Merkley and Ranking Members Joyce and Murkowski to support this provision in the 2023 budget, and if not feasible, to support this provision in the next budget or in a stand-alone bill.

Background

Section 215 of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to detail officers to federal agencies and state health or mental health authorities. While UIOs have requested that officers be detailed to them to fill many roles related to the functions of the Public Health Service, subsection (c) of Section 215 (42 U.S.C. 215(c)) prevents UIOs from receiving detailed officers because they do not fall within the requirement that non-profits eligible for detailing be educational or research non-profits, or non-profits engaged in health activities for special studies and dissemination of information.” UIOs do not qualify under the current statutory language. Changing this language would allow IHS to detail officers to UIOs to perform work related to the functions of the Indian Health Service.

DOJ Consultation Meeting on the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Needs of Native Americans

On January 14, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ) issued a Dear Tribal Leader letter inviting Tribal leaders to a two-day government-to-government consultation on March 16 and 17, 2022. The purpose of this two-day consultation is to discuss “DOJ’s efforts to address the unacceptably high rate of violent crime in Native communities, including the rates of missing or murdered indigenous persons.” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco directed this consultation in her November 15, 2021  memorandum establishing the DOJ’s Steering Committee to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous persons (MMIP). The OTJ is also welcoming written comments via email to OTJ@usdoj.gov until April 15, 2022. The meetings will be held from 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. EST on both days.

On November 15, 2021, during the White House Tribal Nations Summit, President Biden signed Executive Order 14053 (E.O.) “Improving Public Safety and Criminal Justice for Native Americans and Addressing the Crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People,” which directed the Administration to work together with Tribes to “build safe and healthy Tribal communities and to support comprehensive law enforcement, prevention, intervention, and support services.”  The E.O. also recognizes that because “approximately 70 percent of American Indian and Alaska Natives live in urban areas and part of this epidemic of violence is against Native American people in urban areas, we must continue that work on Tribal lands but also build on existing strategies to identify solutions directed toward the particular needs of urban Native Americans.”  To that end, in her November 15, 2021 memorandum, Deputy Attorney General Monaco directed DOJ’s Steering Committee to seek and consider the views of stakeholders including Urban Indian Organizations.