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NCUIH Joins NIHB and 15 Tribal Partners in Letter to Congress Requesting Immediate Reauthorization of SDPI

On September 12, 2023, the National Indian Health Board (NIHB), the National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH), and 15 Tribal partner organizations sent a letter to House and Senate leadership requesting the reauthorization of the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) be brought for consideration for a floor vote by September 30, 2023. The letter emphasizes that SDPI serves 780,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives across 302 programs in 35 states and is scheduled to expire on September 30, 2023.

SDPI provides culturally informed care, funds life-saving efforts to fight diabetes at Indian Health Services facilities (including 31 UIOs), and is critical to improving long-term health outcomes in Indian Country. The highly successful, bipartisan program is a proven success, and reauthorization should be a top priority for Congress.

Read the Full Letter

Full Letter Text

Dear Speaker McCarthy, Minority Leader Jeffries, Majority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McConnell:

On behalf of the undersigned Tribal partner organizations and the 574+ sovereign federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Tribal nations we serve, we write today to thank you for your longstanding support of the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) and ask for your commitment to reauthorize this vital program before it expires at the end of this month. Please bring the SDPI forward for consideration for a floor vote by September 30, 2023.

The Special Diabetes Program for Indians serves 780,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives across 302 programs in 35 states.1 SDPI focuses on a culturally informed and community-directed approach to treat and prevent Type 2 diabetes in Tribal communities. American Indians and Alaska Natives disproportionately suffer from Type 2 diabetes, but thanks to the success of SDPI, that statistic is improving.

As part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Congress established the SDPI program to address the growing epidemic of diabetes in AI/AN communities. At a rate approximately twice the national average, AI/ANs have the highest prevalence of diabetes. Further, AI/ANs are 1.8 times more likely to die from diabetes. In some Tribal communities, over 50 percent of adults have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. However, from 2013 to 2017, diabetes incidence in AI/ANs decreased each year for the first time, thanks to the success of the SDPI program. American Indians and Alaska Natives are the only racial/ethnic group that has seen a decrease in prevalence.2 SDPI has also resulted in significant savings in Medicare due to a reduction in End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). Between 1996 and 2013, incidence rates of ESRD in AI/AN individuals with diabetes declined by 54 percent. This reduction alone is estimated to have saved $520 million between 2006-2015.3

SPDI is bipartisan and widely supported in Congress but has yet to be reauthorized. Earlier this year, the Congressional Diabetes Caucus led bipartisan sign-on letters requesting support to reauthorize SDPI. The letters received 60 Senate signers and 240 House signers. And while these letters may show how bipartisan this program is, they do not reauthorize the most effective federally funded program.

More recently, legislation was passed out of committee in both the House (H.R. 3561) and Senate (S. 1855) that would reauthorize the SDPI program at $170 million per year for two years but awaits consideration by the full House and Senate. Failure to reauthorize SDPI will create unnecessary program uncertainty and impact the continuity of care for the patients who depend on this highly effective program. Despite the lack of funding, the Special Diabetes Program for Indians continues to prove how successful and widely bipartisan it is.

Unless the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader bring legislation to the floor for a vote, the program will expire on September 30, 2023, resulting in diminished type 2 diabetes care for thousands of AI/ANs. This program is highly successful, bipartisan, and has proven to be a worthwhile financial investment of taxpayer dollars.

The future of this successful program is in the hands of Congress. Passing legislation to reauthorize the SDPI program must be a top priority in September. The undersigned organizations urge House and Senate leadership to schedule the legislation for a floor vote and reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program for Indians by September 30, 2023.

Sincerely,
Alaska Native Health Board
Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board, Inc.
American Indian Higher Education Consortium
California Rural Indian Health Board
Great Plains Tribal Leaders’ Health Board
Inter Tribal Association of Arizona
Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes
National Congress of American Indians
National Council of Urban Indian Health
National Indian Child Welfare Association
National Indian Education Association
Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board
Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council
Self-Governance Communication and Education Tribal Consortium
Southern Plains Tribal Health Board
United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund
National Indian Health Board

Background

In March 2023, the House Diabetes Caucus Leaders and Senate Diabetes Caucus Leaders sent a letter to House and Senate leadership advocating for the reauthorization of SDPI and outlining the program’s positive impacts on reducing diabetes in AI/AN communities. The House Diabetes Caucus letter closed with 238 signatures, and the Senate Diabetes Caucus letter closed with 60 signatures.

SDPI includes research-based interventions for diabetes prevention and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk reduction AI/AN community-based programs and healthcare settings. AI/ANs have the highest diabetes prevalence rates of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States. AI/AN adults are almost three times more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes. The program has demonstrated success with a 50% reduction in diabetic eye disease rates, drops in diabetic kidney failure, and a 50% decline in End Stage Renal Disease. SDPI is, therefore, a critical program to address the disparate high rates of diabetes among AI/ANs.

The 31 UIOs currently receiving SDPI funding have used these funds to purchase blood sugar monitoring devices, medication, wound care, endocrinology, and retinal imaging services. Other projects include a robust preventative education and support system and a Garden Project to teach classes about creating and maintaining a healthy diet.

Senate Committee Passes Bipartisan Bill to Reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, Marking First Increase in Nearly Two Decades

On June 15, 2023, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee passed the bipartisan Special Diabetes Program Reauthorization of 2023 (S.1855), introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). The bill would reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 Diabetes and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) at $170 million for fiscal years (FY) 24-25 for each program. This is the first time the program has seen an increase in funding, as the program has been funded at $150 million annually since 2004, and is set to expire in September 2023. The bill passed out of the committee with a 20-1 vote.

On May 17, 2023, the House Subcommittee on Health passed the bipartisan Special Diabetes Program for Indians Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2547), introduced by Representative Tom Cole (R-OK-04) and Representative Raul Ruiz (D-CA-25). Similar to S. 1855, the bill would reauthorize the program for fiscal years 2024 and 2025 at $170 million per year. The bill will now be moved to the full Energy and Commerce Committee.

SDPI’s integrated approach to diabetes healthcare and prevention programs in Indian Country has become a resounding success and is one of the most successful public health programs ever implemented. Currently, 31 urban Indian organizations (UIOs) receive SDPI funding that enables UIOs to provide critical services that reduce the incidence of diabetes-related illness among urban Indian communities. The program is currently set to end in September 2023, and it remains critical that Congress reauthorizes SDPI to ensure there is no lapse in funding.

Bipartisan Letters from the Diabetes Caucus

In March 2023, The House Diabetes Caucus Leaders Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO-1) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12) sent a letter to Speaker McCarthy and Minority Leader Jeffries, and Senate Diabetes Caucus Leaders Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter to Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell regarding the reauthorization of the Special Diabetes Program (SDP) comprised of Special Statutory Funding Program for Type 1 Diabetes Research and SDPI. The House Diabetes Caucuses letter closed with 238 signatures and the Senate Diabetes Caucus letter closed with 60 signatures.

The letter outlines that the programs fund research that led to new therapies improving the lives of those with diabetes and notes that “SDPI has been one of the most successful programs ever created to reduce the incidence and complications due to Type 2 diabetes.  Communities with SDPI-funded programs have seen substantial growth in diabetes prevention resources, and, for the first time, from 2013 to 2017, diabetes incidence in the AI/AN population decreased each year.” This funding invests in necessary research to develop a cure for diabetes as well as support programs, like SDPI, that help prevent and treat the disease and its complications.

The letter notes developments from the SDP and SDPI include:

  • Type 1 (T1D) Prevention Research
  • Artificial Pancreas (AP) System Research Led to the First Fully Automated Insulin-Dosing System Available to Patients
  • Kidney Disease Research on Reduction in End-Stage Renal Disease
  • Eye Therapy Research on Diabetic Eye Disease
  • Glucose Control Research for the American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) Population that Reduced the Risk of Eye, Kidney, and Nerve Complications
  • Diabetes Prevention in the AI/AN Community that Leads to a Reduction in the Incidence and Complications due to Type 2 Diabetes

Background on SDPI and American Indians/Alaska Natives

SDPI includes research-based interventions for diabetes prevention and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk reduction AI/AN community-based programs and healthcare settings. AI/ANs have the highest diabetes prevalence rates of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, with AI/AN adults almost three times more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes. The program has demonstrated success with a 50% reduction in diabetic eye disease rates, drops in diabetic kidney failure, and a 50% decline in End Stage Renal Disease. SDPI is therefore a critical program to address the disparate high rates of diabetes among AI/ANs.

The 31 UIOs currently receiving SDPI funding have used these funds to purchase blood sugar monitoring devices, medication, wound care, endocrinology, and retinal imaging services. Other projects include: a robust preventative education and support system and a Garden Project to teach classes about creating and maintaining a healthy diet.

NCUIH Action

The National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) has long supported SDPI and after conducting focus groups for the 2022 Policy Assessment, UIOs have requested an increase in SDPI funding from current FY23 levels of $150,000,000 to $250,000,000. NCUIH will continue to advocate for the UIOs’ requested amount of $250,000,000.

Resources

NCUIH Calls for Full Funding and Increased Resources for Urban Indian Health in FY 2024 Written Testimony to House Appropriations Subcommittee

On March 23, 2023, The National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) submitted outside written testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies regarding Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 funding for Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs). NCUIH advocated in its testimony for full funding for the Indian Health Service (IHS) and urban Indian health and increased resources for Native health programs.

In the testimony, NCUIH requested the following:

  • $51.42 billion for the Indian Health Service and $973.59 million for Urban Indian Health for FY24 (as requested by the Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup)
  • Maintain Advance Appropriations for the Indian Health Service until Mandatory Funding is Enacted and protect IHS from sequestration
  • Permanent 100% Federal Medical Assistance Percentage for services provided at UIOs
  • Increase funding for Electronic Health Record Modernization
  • Increase funding to $30 million for Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country (GHWIC)
  • Ensure UIOs are appropriately included in grant programs relating to Indian health
  • Appropriate $80 million for the Native Behavioral Health Resources Program
  • Work with Authorizers to Reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program for Indians

Full Text of Testimony:

My name is Francys Crevier, I am Algonquin and the Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH), the national representative of urban Indian organizations receiving grants under Title V of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) and the American Indians and Alaska Native (AI/ANs) patients they serve. On behalf of NCUIH and these 41 Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs), I would like to thank Chair Aderholt, Ranking Member DeLauro, and Members of the Subcommittee for your leadership to improve health outcomes for urban Indians. We respectfully request the following:

  • $51.42 billion for the Indian Health Service and $973.59 million for Urban Indian Health for FY24 (as requested by the Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup)
  • Maintain Advance Appropriations for the Indian Health Service until Mandatory Funding is Enacted and protect IHS from sequestration
  • Permanent 100% Federal Medical Assistance Percentage for services provided at UIOs
  • Increase funding for Electronic Health Record Modernization
  • Ensure UIOs are appropriately included in grant programs relating to Indian health
  • Appropriate $80 million for the Native Behavioral Health Resources Program
  • Work with Authorizers to Reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program for Indians
We want to acknowledge that your leadership was instrumental in providing the greatest investments ever for Indian health and urban Indian Health, especially the inclusion of advance appropriations. It is important that we continue in this direction to build on our successes.
The Beginnings of Urban Indian Organizations

The Declaration of National Indian Health Policy in the Indian Health Care Improvement Act states that: “Congress declares that it is the policy of this Nation, in fulfillment of its special trust responsibilities and legal obligations to Indians to ensure the highest possible health status for Indians and urban Indians and to provide all resources necessary to effect that policy.” In fulfillment of the National Indian Health Policy, the Indian Health Service funds three health programs to provide health care to AI/ANs: IHS sites, tribally operated health programs, and Urban Indian Organizations (referred to as the I/T/U system).

As a preliminary issue, “urban Indian” refers to any American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) person who is not living on a reservation, either permanently or temporarily. UIOs were created in the 1950s by American Indians and Alaska Natives living in urban areas, with the support of Tribal leaders, to address severe problems with health, education, employment, and housing caused by the federal government’s forced relocation policies. Congress formally incorporated UIOs into the Indian Health System in 1976 with the passage of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA). Today, UIOs continue to play a critical role in fulfilling the federal government’s responsibility to provide health care for AI/ANs and are an integral part of the Indian health system. UIOs serve as a cultural hub for and work to provide high quality, culturally competent care to the over 70% of AI/ANs living in urban settings.

Request: $51.42 billion for Indian Health Service and $973.59 million for urban Indian health

The federal government owes a trust obligation to provide adequate healthcare to AI/ANs. It is the policy of the United States “to ensure the highest possible health status for Indians and urban Indians and to provide all resources necessary to affect that policy.” This requires that funding for Indian health must be significantly increased if the federal government is to finally fulfill its trust responsibility. At a minimum, funding must be maintained and protected as budget-cutting measures are being considered.

We thus request Congress honor the Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup (TBFWG) FY24 recommendations of $51.42 billion for IHS and $973.59 million for urban Indian health. That number is much greater than the FY23 enacted amounts of $6.9 billion for IHS and $90.4 million for urban Indian health. The significant difference between the enacted and requested amount underscores the need for Congress to significantly increase funding to IHS to meet the Indian Health System’s level of need. Additionally, IHS has been consistently underfunded in comparison to other major federal health agencies. In 2018, the Government Accountability Office (GAO-19-74R) reported that from 2013 to 2017, IHS annual spending increased by roughly 18% overall and approximately 12% per capita. In comparison, annual spending at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which has a similar charge to IHS, increased by 32% overall, with a 25% per capita increase during the same period. In fact, even though the VHA service population is only three times that of IHS, their annual appropriations are roughly thirteen times higher. In other words, it is imperative that Congress fully fund the IHS at the amount requested by the TBFWG to fulfill its trust responsibility and to improve health outcomes for AI/ANs no matter where they live.

The IHS is chronically underfunded, and the Urban Health line item historically is just one percent (1%) of that underfunded budget. UIOs receive direct funding only from the Urban Health line item and do not receive direct funds from other distinct IHS line items. As a result, in FY 2018 U.S. healthcare spending was $11,172 per person, but UIOs received only $672 per AI/AN patient from the IHS budget. Without a significant increase to the urban Indian line item, UIOs will continue to be forced to operate on limited budgets that offer almost no flexibility to expand services or address facilities-related costs. For example, one UIO, Native American Lifelines, is made up of two programs that run in both Boston and Baltimore with an annual budget of just $1.6 million for a service population of over 55,000 people.

Despite this underfunding, UIOs have been excellent stewards of the funds allocated by Congress and are effective at ensuring that increases in appropriations correlate with improved care for their communities. Last Congress, with the help of this committee, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now allows UIOs to utilize their existing IHS contracts to upgrade their facilities. With funding increases from this Committee and this new allowance, six UIOs opened new facilities in the past year, and an additional 16 UIOs have plans to open new facilities in the next two years. The increased investments in urban Indian health by this committee will continue to result in the expansion of health care services, increased jobs, and improvement of the overall health in our communities.

Request: Maintain Advance Appropriations for IHS Until Mandatory Funding Is Enacted

We applaud Chair Baldwin and this Committee for your work on the historic inclusion of advance appropriations in the FY23 Omnibus. This is a crucial step towards ensuring long-term, stable funding for IHS. Previously, the I/T/U system was the only major federal health care provider funded through annual appropriations. It is imperative that this Committee retain advance appropriations and ensure that IHS is protected from sequestration.

The GAO cited a lack of consistent funding as a barrier for IHS. The Congressional Research Service stated that advance appropriations would lead to cost savings as continuing resolutions (CRs) “prohibits the agency from making longer-term, potentially cost-saving purchases.” Advance appropriations will improve accountability and increase staff recruitment and retention at IHS. When IHS distributes their funding on time, our UIOs can pay their doctors and providers. During a pandemic that has ravaged Indian Country and devasted the workforce, being able to recruit doctors and pay them on time is a top priority.

While advance appropriations are a step in the right direction to avoid disruptions during government shutdowns and continuing resolutions (CRs), mandatory funding is the only way to assure fairness in funding and fulfillment of the trust responsibility. Until authorizers act to move IHS to mandatory funding, we request that Congress continue to provide advance appropriations to the Indian health system to improve certainty and stability.

Cuts from sequestration force I/T/U providers to make difficult decisions about the scope of healthcare services they can offer to Native patients. For example, the $220 million reduction in IHS’ budget authority for FY 2013 resulted in an estimated reduction of 3,000 inpatient admissions and 804,000 outpatient visits for AI/ANs. Therefore, we request that you exempt IHS from sequestration and other budget cutting measures as is required by the trust responsibility.

Request: Work with Authorizers for Permanent 100% Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for services provided at UIOs

The federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) refers to the percentage of Medicaid costs covered by the federal government and reimbursed to states. With states already receiving 100% FMAP for services provided at IHS and Tribal facilities, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) temporarily shifted the responsibility of UIO Medicaid cost obligation from state governments to the federal government. This provision finally brought a form of parity to UIOs by setting FMAP for Medicaid services provided at UIOs at 100% for eight fiscal quarters, while offering cost savings to states, and finally creating a sense of consistency in how the federal government honors its obligations to urban Native healthcare. The provision expires this month on March 31, 2023. During this short provision, states have been able to work with UIOs to provide increased funding to help begin construction of a new clinic, youth services center, and establish a new behavioral health unit.

Permanent 100% FMAP will bring some fairness to the I/T/U system and increase available financial resources to UIOs and support them in addressing critical health needs of urban Native patients. Again, we request that the committee work with authorizers for permanent 100% FMAP.

Request: Increase Funding for Electronic Health Record Modernization

We request your support for the Indian Health Service’s (IHS) transition to a new electronic health record (EHR) system for IHS and UIOs. UIOs have expended significant funds for the replacement, upgrade and maintenance of IHS’ Health Information Technology (HIT) systems due to the federal government’s failure to keep pace with HIT development in the wider healthcare industry. This has resulted in UIOs having no choice but to purchase expensive off-the-shelf-replacement systems to ensure that they can continue to provide high-quality and culturally-focused health care to AI/AN patients. As EHR modernization moves from planning to fruition, it is critically important that appropriations continue to increase, and any language included in appropriations must allow funding to be used to reimburse Tribal Organizations and UIOs associated with the cost of EHR modernization. NCUIH requests the committee to support this transition by supporting the President’s budget request of $913 million in FY24 appropriations.

Request: Ensure UIOs are appropriately included in grant programs relating to Indian health

Failure to explicitly include UIOs in legislative programmatic authorizations often effectively prohibits UIOs from accessing the related funding, even if the exclusion was unintentional and UIOs would otherwise be an appropriate addition to program eligibility. UIOs are already severely underfunded and rely on grant funding to support the provision of life-saving services to their patients. Excluding UIOs from grant funding reduces the ability of UIOs to provide and expand service options for their patients. For example, UIOs are left out of statutory language in the nationalization of the Community Health Aide Program (CHAP), which is meant to increase the availability of healthcare workers in Native communities. Because of this legislative oversight, IHS interprets this as UIOs are not eligible to participate in the program, and therefore UIOs cannot utilize the program to ease the burden caused by limited provider availability for the Indian Health System.

Many programs in the Health and Human Services appropriations bills include language for Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations, but not for urban Indian organizations. Urban Indian Organizations are not considered Tribal organizations, which is a common misconception. While UIOs may fall within general terms such as “non-profit organization,” there are times when a general grant to non-profits is not appropriate, but a grant to UIOs would be. For example, if the grant is intended to serve Indian Healthcare facilities, including UIOs in grant funding would be appropriate, while including non-profit organizations generally would not be. Therefore, it is essential that you explicitly include UIOs when they intend UIOs to be included in the program. We request that any addition of UIOs to a program should include a corresponding appropriation increase to ensure that funding for Tribes and Tribal Organizations are not reduced. We emphasize that we acknowledge and respect the government-to-government relationship between Tribes and the United States and understand that there are times when it is not appropriate to add UIOs into legislation directed at Tribes and Tribal Organizations.

Request: Appropriate $80 Million for the Native Behavioral Health Resources Program

Native people continue to face high rates of behavioral health issues caused by generational trauma and federal policies. Native people experience serious mental illnesses at a rate 1.58 times higher than the national average, and high rates of alcohol and substance abuse. In fact, between 1999 and 2015, the drug overdose death rates for Native populations increased by more than 500%. Native youth also experience the highest rates of suicide and depression, with the Native youth suicide rate being 2.5 times that of the national average.

In response to these chronic health disparities, Congress authorized $80 million to be appropriated for the Native Behavioral Health Resources Program for fiscal years 2023 to 2027. Despite authorizing an appropriation of $80 million for the Program, Congress did not appropriate that sum for FY 23.

We request that the authorized $80 million be appropriated to the Native Behavioral Health Resources Program for FY 24 and each of the remaining authorized years. Until the committee appropriates funding for this program, critical healthcare programs and services cannot operate to their full capability, putting Native lives at-risk. We ask that this essential step is taken to ensure our communities have access to the care they need.

Request: Work with Authorizers to Re-authorize the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI)

SDPI’s integrated approach to diabetes healthcare and prevention programs in Indian country has become a resounding success and is one of the most successful public health programs ever implemented. SDPI has demonstrated success with a 50% reduction in diabetic eye disease rates, drops in diabetic kidney failure, and 50% decline in End Stage Renal Disease. Additionally, the reduction in end stage renal disease between 2006 and 2015 led to an estimated $439.5 million dollars in accumulated savings to the Medicare program, 40% of which, of $174 million, can be attributed to SDPI.

Currently, 31 UIOs are in this program and are at the forefront of diabetes care. Facilities use these funds to offer a wide range of diabetes treatment and prevention services, including but not limited to exercise programs and physical activity, nutrition services, community gardens, culinary education, physical education, health, and wellness fairs, culturally-relevant nutrition assistance, food sovereignty education, group exercise activities, green spaces, and youth and elder-focused activities.

With the program set to expire this year, we request that the committee work with authorizers to permanently reauthorize SDPI at a minimum of $250 million requested in the President’s FY24 budget with automatic annual funding increases tied to the rate of medical inflation, to continue the success of preventing diabetes-related illnesses for all Indian Country.

Conclusion

These requests are essential to ensure that urban Indians are appropriately cared for, in the present and in future generations. The federal government must continue to work towards its trust and treaty obligation to maintain and improve the health of American Indians and Alaska Natives. We urge Congress to take this obligation seriously and provide UIOs with all the resources necessary to protect the lives of the entirety of the Native population, regardless of where they live.

President Biden Continues to Demonstrate Strong Commitment to Urban Indians, Proposes a 27% Increase for Urban Indian Health for FY 2024

The FY 2024 budget request includes $115 million for urban Indian health, a 27% increase over the FY 2023 enacted amount, mandatory funding through FY 2033, and an IHS exemption from sequestration.

 On March 17, 2023, the Indian Health Service (IHS) published their Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Congressional Justification with the full details of the President’s Budget, which includes $115 million for urban Indian health – a 27% increase above the FY 2023 enacted amount of $90.42 million. The President’s proposal included a total $144.3 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and $9.7 billion in total funding for IHS— which maintains the $5.1 billion in advance appropriations enacted in the FY 2023 omnibus and includes $1.6 billion in proposed mandatory funding for Contract Support Costs, Section 105(l) Leases, and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians.

The budget proposes full mandatory funding for IHS from FY 2025 to FY 2033 to the amount of $288 billion over ten-years, as well as exempting IHS from sequestration. This mandatory formula would culminate in $44 billion for IHS in FY 2033, to account for inflation, staffing increases, long-COVID treatment, and construction costs. This move from discretionary to mandatory funding is essential as noted in the IHS Congressional Justification, “While the progress achieved through the enactment of advance appropriations will have a lasting impact on Indian Country, funding growth beyond what can be accomplished through discretionary spending is needed to fulfill the federal government’s commitments to Indian Country.”

Line Item   FY22 Enacted   FY23 Enacted  FY24 Tribal Request  FY24 President’s  Budget 
Urban Indian Health $73.43 million $90.42 million $973.6 million $115 million
Indian Health Service $6.6 billion $6.9 billion $51.4 billion $9.7 billion
Advance Appropriations ——————— $5.13 billion ——————— ———————
Hospitals and Clinics $2.3 billion  $2.5 billion  $12.2 billion $3.5 billion
Tribal Epidemiology Centers $24.4 million  $34.4 million  ——————– $34.4 million
Electronic Health Record System $145 million  $217.5 million  $491.9 million $913.1 million
Community Health Representatives $63.6 million  $65.2 million $1.2 billion $74.5 million
Mental Health $121.9 million  $127.1 million  $3.4 billion $163.9 million
Cancer Moonshot Initiative ——————— ——————— ——————— $108 million
HIV & Hepatitis ——————— ——————— ——————— $47 million

The National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) requested full funding for urban Indian health for FY 2024 at $973.59 million and at least $51.42 billion for IHS in accordance with the Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup (TBFWG) recommendations. The marked increase for FY 2024 is due to Tribal leaders’ budget recommendations to address health disparities that have historically been ignored. The Congressional Justification states the importance of addressing these disparities, “The COVID-19 experience in Indian Country illustrates the urgent need for large-scale investments to improve the overall health status of AI/ANs and ensure that the disproportionate impacts experienced during the pandemic are never repeated.”

Overview of Budget

Key Provisions for IHS, Tribal Organizations, and Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs)
  • $9.7 billion for IHS for FY 2024
  • $115 million for urban Indian health for FY 2024
  • $5.1 billion in Advance Appropriations for FY 2024
  • $1.2 billion in mandatory funding for Contract Support Costs
  • $153 million in mandatory funding for Section 105(l) Leases
  • $250 million in mandatory funding for Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI)
Other Budget Highlights
  • Addressing Targeted Public Health Challenges
    • $47 million for HIV and Hepatitis C.
      • UIOs eligible
    • $3 million for improving maternal health.
      • UIOs eligible
    • $9 million for addressing opioid use.
      • UIOs eligible
  • Cancer Moonshot Initiative
    • $108 million
      • Develops a coordinated public health and clinical cancer initiative to implement best practices and prevention strategies to address the incidence of cancer and mortality among AI/ANs.
        • UIOs eligible
  • Division of Telehealth
    • $10 million
      • Manages and oversees a comprehensive telehealth program at IHS that will expand telehealth services, develop governance structures, provide training to users, and integrate with clinical services.
  • Division of Graduate Medical Education
    • $4 million
      • Expands and supports Graduate Medical Education programs to create a pathway for future physicians to address longstanding vacancy issues at IHS.
  • Indian Health Professions
    • $13 million
      • Offers additional IHS Scholarship and Loan Repayment awards, bolstering recruitment and retention efforts through these two high demand programs.
        • UIOs eligible
Legislative Proposal

Once again, the legislative proposal to amend federal law to permit the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Officers to be detailed to UIOs was proposed. This amendment to the Public Health Service Act would provide IHS the discretionary authority to detail officers directly to an UIO to perform work related to the functions of HHS.

Currently, there are 1,614 officers of the U.S. Public Health Service assigned to IHS. There are only 5 of these officers who are assigned to States, who have duty stations at UIOs.

The permittance of officers to be detailed directly to UIOs addresses the staff shortage that hinders the capacity of UIOs to improve access to health care for urban Natives. The strengthening of the IHS workforce will contribute to better health outcomes and reduce disparities.

Background and Advocacy

On March 9, 2023, President Biden released his budget request for Fiscal Year 2024, pending the more detailed IHS budget request released on March 17, including the funding recommendation for urban Indian Health.

On March 9, 2023, NCUIH Chief Executive Officer, Francys Crevier (Algonquin), testified before and submitted public witness written testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies regarding FY 2024 funding for UIOs. NCUIH requested funding in accordance with the requests of the TBFWG at funding levels of $973.59 million for urban Indian health and $51.42 billion for IHS, maintain advance appropriations until mandatory funding is achieved, and appropriate $8o million the Native Behavioral Health Resources Program. On March 24, NCUIH sent a letter to House Appropriations leadership, Chair Kay Granger and Raking Member Rosa DeLauro, reiterating these requests

Next Steps

The Appropriations Committees will review the President’s Budget for consideration as they craft their bills for FY 2024. NCUIH will continue to work with the Biden Administration and Congress to push for full funding of urban Indian health in FY 2024.

NCUIH Releases “2022 Annual Policy Assessment”

The Policy assessment informs urban Indian organization policy priorities in 2023, identifies traditional healing barriers, and addresses mental and behavioral health needs.

2022 Policy Assessment thumbnailThe National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) is pleased to announce the release of its 2022 Annual Policy Assessment. NCUIH hosted five focus groups to identify Urban Indian Organization (UIO) policy priorities for 2023, as they relate to the Indian Health Service (IHS) designated facility types (full ambulatory, limited ambulatory, outreach and referral, and outpatient and residential). The focus groups were held on October 18, 21, and 24, 2022. Additional information was also collected from the UIOs via a questionnaire sent out on November 15, 2022.

Together these tools allow NCUIH to work with UIOs to identify policy priorities in 2023 and identify barriers that impact delivery of care to Native patients and their communities.  Of 41 UIOs, 26 attended the focus groups and/or participated in the questionnaire. This is the third year that NCUIH has conducted the assessment via focus groups and follow up questionnaire. This is also the highest response from UIOs NCUIH has seen since following this process.

Overview of Policy Assessment

2022 Policy Assessment chartAfter the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, newfound priorities were identified for 2023, including workforce development and retention, increased funding for traditional healing, and expanded access to care and telehealth services. Existing priorities also remain a key focus across UIOs, especially increasing funding amounts for the urban Indian health line item and IHS, maintaining advance appropriations for IHS, establishing permanent 100% Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for UIOs, reauthorizing the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI), and increasing behavioral health funding.

 

Key findings from the discussions are as follows:

  • Funding Flexibility is Key to Expanding Services
  • Need for Funding Security Remains a Priority
  • Advance Appropriations Mitigates Funding Insecurities Generated by Government Shutdowns and Continuing Resolutions
  • Facility Funding Directly Impacting UIOs
  • Permanent 100% FMAP Increases Available Financial Resources to UIOs
  • Workforce Concerns Amidst Inflation and Market Changes
  • Traditional Healing Crucial to Advance Comprehensive Native Healthcare
  • Addressing Access and Quality of Native Veteran Care
  • Health Information Technology and Electronic Health Record Modernization
  • New Barriers Limit UIO Distribution of Vaccines
  • HIV, Behavioral Health, and Substance Abuse Report
  • Reauthorizing the Special Diabetes Program for Indians
  • UIOs Find Current NCUIH Services Beneficial

Next Steps

NCUIH will release a comprehensive document of the 2023 Policy Priorities in the coming weeks.

Past Resources:

Senator Warren and Representative Kilmer Introduce NCUIH-Endorsed Bill to Honor Promises to Native People with Key Provisions for Urban Indian Health

On December 5, 2022, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA-6) introduced the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act, which will address the underfunding and barriers to sovereignty in Indian Country acknowledged in the 2018 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report, Broken Promises: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans. The legislation reaffirms the federal government’s trust obligation to all American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) to strengthen federal programs and support Native Communities. This legislation guarantees mandatory, full, and inflation-adjusted funding that can support healthcare, education, housing, and economic development and is cosponsored by national Indian organizations such as the National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH), the National Congress of American Indians, and the National Indian Health Board.

NCUIH worked closely with Senator Warren’s office on this landmark policy platform, which includes permanent 100% Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for urban Indian organizations (UIOs) and modifying an existing policy to allow the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to better communicate on issues affecting urban Indian health. Additionally, the legislation includes mandatory-adjusted funding for the Indian Health Service (IHS), advance appropriations for IHS, increased long-term funding for Special Diabetes Programs for Indians (SDPI) to $300 million through fiscal year (FY) 2032 (currently expiring in FY 2023 and only funded at $150 million annually), and exempting Indian programs from sequestration.

“For generations, the U.S. government has clearly failed to fulfill its commitments to Tribal Nations. This bill is sweeping in ambition to make good on those commitments and empower Native communities, and it provides a much-needed legislative blueprint to deliver significant, long-term funding for the advancement of Native Americans. I won’t stop fighting to ensure the U.S. government honors its promises,” said Senator Warren. 

 “Congress and the federal government have a moral and a legal obligation to fulfill the promises made to Indian Country. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Warren to help reverse the decades-long pattern of systemic funding shortfalls to Native communities and to strengthen federal programs that support Indian Country. Congress should move swiftly to get this legislation enacted. It is long overdue.” said Representative Kilmer. 

 “The health of our people has suffered due to the failure of the government to uphold the trust responsibility of providing health care to all American Indians and Alaska Natives. It is time that we address the needs of Indian Country and enact the recommendations included in the 2018 Broken Promises report, including improving health care for all Native people. The National Council of Urban Indian Health is grateful for the inclusion of Urban Indians in this legislation, especially regarding permanent 100% FMAP for urban Indian organizations and Urban Confer within HHS, both of which have been top priorities for NCUIH. We fully support this bill and believe that this Act is fundamental in honoring the federal government’s trust responsibility to American Indian and Alaska Natives,”Francys Crevier (Algonquin), CEO, NCUIH.

 “On behalf of the nearly 1/4 UIOs in California, CCUIH endorses the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act because it will increase health access for American Indians no matter where they live.  California is home to the largest population of American Indians, with more than 90% living in an urban area.  Full, mandatory, inflation-adjusted funding for the Indian Health Service; funding for the Special Diabetes Programs for Native Americans; permanent FMAP for Urban Indian Health Programs; and Medicaid coverage of any services provided by Indian health care providers will offer critical funding necessary to address the continued disparities in health experienced by American Indians,”Virginia Hedrick (Yurok), Executive Director, California Consortium for Urban Indian Health, Inc.

 “The American Indian Health Service of Chicago, Inc. is pleased to endorse the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act, as it will enable the 70% of American Indians and Alaska Natives who live in Urban Areas to continue to receive the same level of care that is received by other federally funded health programs, while slowly moving toward true health equity with the rest of the United States. With hope that Urban Programs will be able to receive an increase in the funding to be able to offer additional services (such as dental, podiatry, imaging, and women’s wellness) to the American Indian and Alaska Native Chicago based population. AIHSC also appreciates the efforts to increase the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, as our percentages of AI/AN who are diagnosed with diabetes increase,” RoxAnne M LaVallie-Unabia (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians), Executive Director, American Indian Health Service of Chicago.

 “South Dakota Urban Indian Health enthusiastically supports the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act. This bill secures funding for essential health services and through the inclusion of Medicaid reimbursements for substance use disorder facilities, recognizes the urgency of addiction for our relatives. For generations, Native Americans have persevered through forced assimilation, forced removal from our ancestral lands, and broken promises from the United States government. Despite these challenges, we remain a thriving group of sovereign nations and peoples across the geographic United States. This bill is a stride toward health equity for the more than 70% of Native Americans who live in urban areas of the United States.”Michaela Seiber (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota), CEO, South Dakota Urban Indian Health.

 “Native Health endorses the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act because it will provide resources to fulfill the Federal Government’s obligation to provide health care to AI/ANs. The bill supports urban Indian organizations through 100% FMAP and SDPI reauthorization. These measures are especially needed by the underserved AI/AN urban community. In the current environment, UIOs are overwhelmed by the rising demand and the rising costs of providing health care,” – Walter Murillo (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), CEO, Native Health.

 “The Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act is a major step forward in recognizing the trust and treaty obligations to Tribes and American Indian and Alaska Native peoples,” – Jacqueline Mercer, CEO, Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest (NARA).

 “Hunter Health endorses the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act because it will increase access to quality healthcare services and allows Urban Indian Organizations to work with their state to expand services for Native American people living in their community,” – Rachel Mayberry, Chief Advancement Officer, Hunter Health.

 “The Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley is pleased to endorse Senator Warren’s Honoring Broken Promises Act. This bill addresses priorities for urban Indian organizations such as mandatory funding, 100% FMAP, increased SDPI funding, and urban confer. This bill contributes to health equity for American Indians and Alaska Natives and moves forward with the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibility by improving AI/AN health services,” – Sonya Tetnowski (Makah), CEO, Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley.

 “Denver Indian Health and Family Services endorses the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act because it will allow all Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs) to leverage their services and sustain their funding despite many healthcare challenges. (i.e., the pandemic, the opioid crisis, suicide prevention, etc.). It is time the federal government met its trust and treaty obligations to Native peoples, particularly regarding federal spending. Failing to fund Indian Health Service (IHS) fully and UIOs fails to fulfill the federal government’s trust responsibilities. As recipients of less than 1% of the Indian Health Service budget, inadequate funding requires UIOs to depend on every dollar of federal funding and find creative ways to stretch limited resources. The Act will cover a wide range of issues that impact Indian Country; specifically, urban confer for HHS and the VA; 100% FMAP for UIOs; and Special Diabetes for Indians, reauthorized at $300 million for ten years,” – Adrianne Maddux (Hopi Tribe), Executive Director, Denver Indian Health and Family Services.

 “The Oklahoma City Indian Clinic (OKCIC) endorses the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act because it will provide promised and necessary funding for Indian Health Care services.  The OKCIC is the largest Urban Indian Health Care Center in the United States, serving 22,000 patients from over 200 Tribes. Many of our patients are chronically ill and require high levels of expensive medical care.  To provide that care it is very important that Title II of the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act, specifically a full, mandatory and inflation-adjusted funding for the Indian Health Service and permanent adequate funding for the Special Diabetes Program for Indians is not only necessary but vital to maintaining the good health of our people,” – Robyn Sunday-Allen (Cherokee), CEO, Oklahoma City Indian Clinic.

Bill Highlights for Urban Indian Organizations

Mandatory Funding and Advance Appropriations for the Indian Health Service

The Indian health system, including IHS, Tribal facilities, and UIOs, is the only major federal provider of health care that is funded through annual appropriations. If IHS were to receive mandatory funding or, at the least, advance appropriations, it would not be subject to the harmful effects of government shutdowns and continuing resolutions (CRs) as its funding for the next year would already be in place. This is needed as lapses in federal funding put lives at risk. Without funding certainty during government shutdowns can cause UIOs to reduce services, close their doors, or force them to leave their patients without adequate care.  During the last government shutdown, UIOs reported at least 5 patient deaths and significant disruptions in patient services. Securing stable funding for IHS has been a major priority for Indian Country and NCUIH has taken part in extensive advocacy to ensure the continuation and delivery of health services to all Native people regardless of where they live.

This bill authorizes $50,138,679,000 in mandatory appropriations for FY 2023, $51,416,373,000 for FY 2024, and for FY 2025 and each fiscal year thereafter, “an amount equal to the sum of the amount appropriated for the previous fiscal year, as adjusted annually to reflect the change in the medical care component of the consumer price index for all urban consumers (U.S. city average); and, as applicable, 1.8 percent of the amount appropriated for the previous fiscal year.” The bill also provides advance appropriations for IHS.

Special Diabetes Programs for Indians

The SDPI Demonstration Project includes research-based interventions for diabetes prevention and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk reduction into AI/AN community-based programs and health care settings. The program has demonstrated success with a 50% reduction in diabetic eye disease rates, drops in diabetic kidney failure, and a 50% decline in End Stage Renal Disease. Many UIOs receive SDPI funding and the program has directly enabled UIOs to provide critical services to their AI/AN patients, in turn significantly reducing the incidence of diabetes and diabetes-related illnesses among urban Indian communities. These successes are impactful, as AI/ANs have the highest diabetes prevalence rates of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, with AI/AN adults almost three times more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13.7% of adults in urban Native communities are diagnosed with diabetes. SDPI is a critical program to address the high rates of diabetes among AI/ANs and requires secure funding to continue its success. NCUIH has long advocated for SPDI to be fully funded. On May 16, 2022, NCUIH submitted comments and recommendations to IHS emphasizing the importance of SDPI in reducing health disparities related to diabetes for AI/AN populations. These comments included increasing SDPI funding with built-in automatic annual medical inflationary increases and that IHS ensures the SDPI remains inclusive of UIOs.

This legislation will reauthorize SDPI at $300,000,000 for each fiscal year beginning in 2023 through 2032.

Permanent 100% Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP)

FMAP refers to the percentage of Medicaid costs covered by the federal government, which will be reimbursed to the states. Permanent 100% FMAP for UIOs will further the government’s trust responsibility to AI/ANs by increasing available financial resources to UIOs and support them in addressing critical health needs of AI/AN patients. In March of 2021, Congress enacted the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) which authorized eight fiscal quarters of 100% FMAP coverage for UIOs. Unfortunately, with only 3 months until the provision expires, most UIOs have not received any increase in financial support because many states have not increased their Medicaid reimbursement rates to UIOs, citing short-term authorization concerns.

There has been strong support for the expansion of 100% FMAP to UIOs across Indian Country and NCUIH has tirelessly advocated to permanently fix this parity issue. The National Congress of American Indians and the National Indian Health Board passed resolutions along with NCUIH in support of extending 100% FMAP to UIOs. Additionally, there has been longstanding bipartisan congressional support, with over 17 pieces of legislation having been introduced since 1999 on this issue. NCUIH recently sent a letter to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce leadership requesting a markup on the Improving Access to Indian Health Services Act (H.R. 1888), which would establish permanent 100% FMAP for services provided to AI/ANs Medicaid beneficiaries at UIOs.

This bill amends the Social Security Act by including UIOs as eligible entities to receive permanent 100% FMAP.

 Urban Confer with HHS and UIOs

An Urban Confer is an established mechanism for dialogue between federal agencies and UIOs. Urban confer policies are a response to decades of deliberate federal efforts (i.e., forced assimilation, termination, relocation) that have resulted in 70% of AI/AN people living outside of Tribal jurisdictions, thus making Urban Confer integral to addressing the care needs of a majority of AI/ANs. An urban confer policy that includes all HHS agencies, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), ensures that obstacles relating to programs and benefits that directly affect UIOs are addressed quickly so UIOs are better equipped to provide healthcare to their patients. NCUIH has long advocated for facilitating confer between numerous federal branches within HHS and UIO stakeholders. Currently, only IHS has a legal obligation to confer with UIOs. It is important to note that urban confer policies do not supplant or otherwise impact Tribal consultation and the government-to-government relationship between Tribes and federal agencies.

This bill would require the Secretary of HHS, to the maximum extent practicable, to confer with UIOs in carrying out the health services of the Department.

 Office of Management and Budget Office of Native Nations

The bill establishes an Office of Native Nations within the Office of Management (OMB), which coordinates with the rest of OMB and the Executive branch on matters of funding for federal programs and policy affecting AI/ANs and Native Hawaiians. The Administrator, a career position, of the office is responsible for matters such as compiling data on all federal funding for federal programs affecting AI/ANs and Native Hawaiians; ensuring that the budget requests of IHS and the Bureau of Indian Affairs indicate how much funding is needed for programs affecting AI/ANs and Native Hawaiians to be fully funded and how far the federal government is from achieving that full funding; and preparing a crosscutting document each fiscal year containing detailed information, based on data from all federal agencies, on the amount of federal funding that is reaching Indian Tribes, tribal organizations, Native Hawaiian organizations, and UIOs. The bill directs the Administrator to consult with Indian Tribes, collaborate with Native Hawaiian organizations, and confer with UIOs annually to ascertain how the crosscutting document can be modified to make it more useful to Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and UIOs.

On September 12, 2022, after recommendations from NCUIH and Tribal leaders, the Biden administration created a position of a Tribal Policy Advisor within OMB to communicate the needs of Indian Country and AI/ANs. This position was an important first step in ensuring that Native voices are heard during the budget process, and we are grateful that this bill works to further consider the needs of Native programs in federal funding.

Next Steps

Senator Warren and Congressman Kilmer invite comments and feedback on how to refine and improve the legislation in the next Congress. Written input can be submitted at HonoringPromises@warren.senate.gov.

Background

Broken Promises

On December 20, 2018, the Broken Promises report was released and addressed areas where the federal government has failed to fulfill its trust responsibility, including criminal justice and public safety, health care, education, housing, and economic development. Specifically, the report requests advance appropriations for the IHS and funding to implement the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, including job training programs to address chronic shortages of health professionals in Indian Country and a mental health technician training program to address the suicide crisis in Indian Country. The report also recommends direct, long-term funding to Tribes, analogous to the mandatory funding Congress provides to support Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid, avoiding pass-through of funds via states.

The proposal for this bill was first introduced in August 2019 by Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D- N.M.) and Senator Warren. Lawmakers then took feedback from tribal governments and citizens, tribal organizations, UIOs, experts, and other stakeholders which informed the development of this current legislation.

Indian Health Service Accepting Applications for Funding of the Special Diabetes Program for Indians

On July 29, 2022, the Indian Health Service (IHS) issued a notice of funding opportunity for the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI). The total funding identified for fiscal year (FY) 2023 is approximately $136 million. Individual award amounts for the first budget year are anticipated to be between $12,500 and $7.5 million. Current SDPI awardees should budget for the same amount as they received in FY 2022. However, funding amounts may change. New SDPI award applicants should apply for a $12,500 base amount. Approximately 325-450 awards will be issued under this program announcement with a 5-year period of performance. The application deadline is October 7, 2022, with the earliest anticipated start date on January 1, 2023.  NCUIH continues to advocate for an increase in SDPI funds and encourages urban Indian organizations (UIOs) not currently receiving SDPI funds to apply for the FY2023 funding opportunity.

Background

In 2004, Congress established the SDPI Demonstration Projects to translate research-based interventions for diabetes prevention and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk reduction into American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) community-based programs and health care settings. The SDPI Demonstration Projects successfully translated diabetes science and reduced the risk of diabetes in high risk individuals, and reduced CVD risk factors in people with diabetes. The SDPI Demonstration Projects consist of two initiatives: the SDPI Diabetes Prevention Program and the SDPI Healthy Heart Project. In fiscal year (FY) 2020, there were 301 SDPI program sites located in 35 states and collectively serving more than 780,000 AI/AN people.

Since the inception of SDPI, it has achieved real, demonstrable success, with a 50% reduction in diabetic eye disease rates, drops in diabetic kidney failure, and a 54% decline in End Stage Renal Disease. Given the high rates of diabetes and diabetes-related illnesses AI/ANs face, it is imperative that SDPI is administered in a way that continues to reduce these rates – and in a manner that is inclusive of UIOs. AI/ANs have the highest diabetes prevalence rates of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, with AI/AN adults almost three times more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes. According to 2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AI/ANs were 2.3 times more likely than non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes and twice as likely to be diagnosed with end stage renal disease than non-Hispanic whites. SDPI is therefore a critical program to address the disparate high rates of diabetes among AI/ANs.

SDPI has directly enabled UIOs to provide critical services to their AI/AN patients, in turn significantly reducing the incidence of diabetes and diabetes-related illnesses among urban Indian communities. As of 2022, 30 out of the 41 UIOs received SDPI funding. Facilities use these funds to offer a wide range of diabetes treatment and prevention services, including but not limited to exercise programs and physical activity, nutrition services, community gardens, culinary education, physical education, health and wellness fairs, culturally-relevant nutrition assistance, food sovereignty education, group exercise activities, green spaces, and youth and elder-focused activities.

NCUIH supports maintaining SDPI as mandatory spending to enable the program to continue to achieve success in reducing diabetes and diabetes-related illnesses in Indian Country.

NCUIH Submits Comments to IHS on the Special Diabetes Program for Indians for Fiscal Year 2023

On May 16, 2022, the National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) submitted comments and recommendations to the Indian Health Service (IHS) about the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI). These comments responded to the Dear Urban Indian Organization Leader correspondence initiating Area Urban Confers on the SDPI, dated April 15, 2022. In the comments, NCUIH emphasized the importance of SDPI and its impact in reducing health disparities related to diabetes for AI/AN populations. NCUIH also proposed recommendations for fiscal year (FY) 2023 including an increase in funding to at least $250 million with built-in automatic annual medical inflationary increases and additional support for UIOs seeking supplemental funding sources for diabetes-related care.

SDPI and Its Importance to Indian Country

As a grant program inclusive of all three components of the IHS/Tribal Health Program/Urban Indian Organization (I/T/U) system, SDPI has been a resounding and demonstrable success in reducing diabetes and diabetes-related illnesses in Indian Country. The National Indian Health Board has called SDPI “the nation’s most strategic, comprehensive and effective effort to combat diabetes and its complications.” SDPI remains a critical program to continue to address disparately high rates of diabetes among AI/ANs.

SDPI has directly enabled UIOs to provide critical services to their AI/AN patients, in turn significantly reducing the incidence of diabetes and diabetes-related illnesses among urban Indian communities. As of 2022, 30 out of the 41 UIOs received SDPI funding. Facilities use these funds to offer a wide range of diabetes treatment and prevention services, including but not limited to exercise programs and physical activity, nutrition services, community gardens, culinary education, physical education, health and wellness fairs, culturally-relevant nutrition assistance, food sovereignty education, group exercise activities, green spaces, and youth and elder-focused activities.

NCUIH’s Requests to IHS

NCUIH made the following comments and recommendations about the SDPI:

  • SDPI should be permanently reauthorized and funding increasing to $250 million, with built-in automatic annual medical inflationary increases
    • SDPI funding has been stagnant at $150 million since 2004. Due to inflation and increases in health care costs, the level of funding has effectively reduced over the past nearly twenty years. This places the onus on Indian Health Care Providers to make up the funding difference to ensure the continued success of SDPI.
    • The federal government’s trust responsibility to AI/ANs requires that the government provide services and resources to improve the health of AI/AN citizens and the United States has pledged to provide all resources necessary to eradicate the health disparities between AI/ANs and the general population of the United States. Because AI/ANs have the highest diabetes prevalence rates of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, SDPI falls well within the federal government’s trust responsibility to AI/ANs, and it is the duty of the United States, not Tribes and UIOs, to reconcile funding concerns with programmatic need.
    • In addition, NCUIH urges the federal government to collaborate with other federal agencies to create or identify supplemental funding sources and communicate the availability of these funds to UIOs.
  • NCUIH requests that IHS ensure that SDPI remains inclusive of UIOs, especially if IHS is considering structural changes to SDPI.
    • NCUIH asks that IHS communicate any potential recommendations to UIOs as soon as possible and hold proper and timely Urban Confer sessions, as is required by the federal trust responsibility and the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act, prior to making any formal recommendations to Congress.

NCUIH will continue to closely follow IHS’s progress and policies with SDPI and advocate for future of this vital program.