Wilson Supports Urban Indian Health
Wilson Opposes Program Elimination
Albuquerque, NM Congresswoman Heather Wilson today visited First Nations Community Healthsource to announce her actions to support the Urban Indian Health Program. The President's FY 2007 budget proposal recommended eliminating the program.
"Access to health care for the Indian population in Albuquerque is slowly deteriorating. These programs provide basic healthcare to people away from the reservation and deserve support," said Wilson.
Wilson is leading a bipartisan effort with Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington to save the program from elimination. Wilson and McDermott have sent letters to the Budget Committee and Appropriations Committee in Congress to urge their colleagues to provide funding for the program. The letters gained the support of 34 and 41 Members, respectively. Their efforts have been endorsed by the Native American Caucus, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress interested in Indian issues.
The Urban Indian Health Program provides funding to 34 urban health programs around the country. Funding is allocated to nonprofit organizations who manage health clinics, such as First Nations. The program was funded at $33 million in FY 2006, and about $1.5 million comes to Albuquerque to either First Nations or SIPI Dental Clinic. The program funding is about 42% of the total budget at First Nations, and about 63% of the budget for the SIPI Dental Clinic. There are 47,000 urban Indians in Albuquerque, and 52,000 in the metro area. At least 6,000 use services at one of these clinics.
"First Nations meets a need in our community, and they depend on this program for funding. I will continue to work to provide adequate funding for Indian health in New Mexico," said Wilson.
The Administration has proposed referring urban Indians to other community health centers for primary health care. The National Association of Community Health Centers has opposed this move, citing a lack of capacity and staff.
Less than 1% of the $3.1 billion Indian Health Service budget is targeted for urban Indians. According to the 2000 Census, nearly 70% of Americans identifying themselves as of American Indian or Alaska Native heritage live in urban areas.
Wilson is working with Senator Domenici to address IHS funding shortfalls in New Mexico.
Maintaining support for First Nations Health Source is critical, according to New Mexico Primary Care Association Executive Director David Roddy.
"First Nations is providing high-quality comprehensive care to thousands of Urban Indians at a time when the Indian Health Services has been forced to close facilities and cut back on services in Albuquerque," says Roddy. "We applaud Congresswoman Wilson for leading the efforts in Congress to fight these cuts that will adversely affect many of New Mexico's most vulnerable citizens."
Roddy says Wilson has been a champion in the U.S. House, fighting to make health care accessible to vulnerable populations and fighting to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all Americans.
"Our membership, including First Nations is grateful for her untiring and effective efforts and support."