Wilson Says Urban Indian Health Care Funding Restored
Wilson Led Opposition of Program Elimination
Albuquerque, NM Congresswoman Heather Wilson today announced that funding for an endangered health program for Native Americans has been fully restored. The President's FY 2007 budget proposal recommended eliminating the program, but Wilson says today that a key subcommittee has restored the funding to $33.4 million. The funding proposal now goes to the full Appropriations Committee for approval, then on to the House.
"This is great new and I would like to thank Representative Wilson for her work to make sure that her colleagues understand the importance of this funding," said Dr. Linda Son Stone, Executive Director of First Nations Community HealthSource in Albuquerque. First Nations Community HealthSource is a key provider of health care to American Indians in the Albuquerque area. "Representative Wilson crossed party lines and took a leadership role in Congress to make this happen. This is what we needed to make sure that American Indians living in urban areas continue to have access to quality health care."
Wilson led a bipartisan effort with Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington to save the program from elimination. Wilson and McDermott 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 were endorsed by the Native American Caucus, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress interested in Indian issues.
"It is great news for 55,000 urban Native American Indians living in the Albuquerque that Congress had restored the $33 million Urban Health Funding back into the Fiscal Year 2000 budget," said Keith Franklin, President of the Albuquerque Metro Native American Coalition. "This was an outstanding accomplishment and great effort put forth by the Congressional Delegates, Senator Bingaman and most noteworthy, Congresswoman Heather Wilson, who worked closely with the Urban Native American Indian community. A big thanks to Congresswoman Wilson for her outstanding persistence and hard work to make this happen."
"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. "I'm glad that my colleagues understood the importance of this program and saw fit to restore this funding."
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 had proposed referring urban Indians to other community health centers for primary health care. The National Association of Community Health Centers 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."