Advocates, Lawmakers Call for Additional Funds for Indian Health Services
Legislators and advocates of American Indian health care reform on Wednesday urged a Senate panel to increase funding for health services for American Indians, CQ HealthBeat reports. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), vice chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and other witnesses said that increased government funding could reduce long waits for mental health and other medical services on Indian reservations.
Kathryn Power, director of the Center for Mental Health Services at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, told the panel that the suicide rate among American Indian and Alaskan Native youth ages 15 to 24 is 250% higher than the national average and that suicide is the second leading cause of death in that population group.
Dorgan said that Indian Health Service spends $1,600 per person on health care annually, less than 50% of the $3,800 per person spent annually on health care for federal prison inmates, and called for an overhaul in the government's strategy for funding Indian health care.
IHS Director Charles Grim said that his agency was seeking funds and services from other federal programs to improve mental health and medical services.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said that the Bush administration's proposed 2% increase for IHS is inadequate, adding, "Is there anywhere else out there where a 2% increase would meet the demand?" Burr said that it would be more expensive in the future to correct health disparities between American Indians and the general population if IHS continues to be underfunded. "If we want to accomplish something, it's going to cost something," Burr said (CQ HealthBeat, 4/13).