Domenici, Wilson, Pearce Call on Richardson to Back NM House Bill to Fund Albuquerque Indian Health Center
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Pete Domenici and Representatives Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce have sent a letter to Governor Bill Richardson urging him to help revive a New Mexico House bill that would enable the Albuquerque Indian Health Center (AIHS) to operate at full capacity..
The center has experienced funding decreases in recent years due to tribes in the Albuquerque area exercising their rights to operate their own health programs. The Indian Health Service is required by law to transfer money for services it provides to eligible tribes for use on reservations.
While the delegation committed to finding a long term solution to offer services to urban Indians, any federal legislation will take months to be enacted. However, a bill introduced by Rep. James Madalena, HB 521, would appropriate five million dollars from New Mexico's FY2006 general fund to support operations at AIHS.
The text of the letter sent to Richardson is as follows:
"As you are aware, the Albuquerque Indian Health Center (AIHC) is facing a crisis with respect to the provision adequate of urgent care for the area's urban Indians. Although members of New Mexico's Congressional delegation are working extremely hard to secure a solution at the federal level, we wanted to encourage your support for legislation being considered in the State Senate.
"House Bill 521, introduced by Rep. James Madalena, will appropriate five million dollars from the New Mexico's FY2006 general fund to support operations at the AIHC. There are approximately 18,000 urban Indians who reside in the Albuquerque metropolitan area and depend on the AIHC for health care services. A large proportion of the AIHC's users do not have health insurance and as such do not have access to other private care facilities.
"Our offices have met with representatives of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Indian Health Service, and the AIHC to discuss the underlying problems of funding and possible solutions. While the state's Congressional delegation continues to work at the federal level on developing a sustainable long term solution, we encourage you to support the continuation of urgent care services at the state level.
"Ensuring the viability of the AIHC is an indispensable step in maintaining delivery of health care to our state's Indian population. We hope you will give our request consideration and we look forward to working with you on this issue."
Last Friday, James Toya, the Indian Health Service's Albuquerque area director, briefed delegation representatives on plans to help ease the transition for patients who currently use the center. Some of these patients will be treated at UNM Hospital or at pueblo facilities.