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Wilson Supports Urban Indian Health Care

Location: Albuquerque, NM

Wilson Supports Urban Indian Health Care

Congresswoman Heather Wilson said today that she strongly supports federal funding for urban Indian health care and will once again oppose efforts to eliminate all funding for the program. Wilson and other members of Congress, including Democrat Jim McDermott of Washington, successfully restored funding last year after it was eliminated in the President's budget proposal.

Wilson says she's disappointed once again that the funding was stricken from the budget and will work with McDermott and others to restore it.

Wilson visited First Nations Community Healthsource last year to announce her actions to support the Urban Indian Health Program. The President's FY 2007 budget proposal recommended eliminating the program, and Wilson announced later that same year that the funding had been restored.

"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. "Of the 2.4 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the U.S., 1.3 million live in urban areas and about 1 million live outside the IHS service area. It is unlikely that community health centers will be able to match the service that urban Indian centers have been providing, and I am worried that these urban Indians living off-reservation may be deprived of appropriate care without these funds."

Last year, Wilson led a bipartisan effort with McDermott to save the program from elimination. Wilson and McDermott sent letters to the Budget and Appropriations Committees, urging their colleagues to provide funding for the program. The letters gained the support of 34 and 41 Members of the House, respectively, and ultimately led to the restoration of the funding. Their efforts were endorsed by the Native American Caucus, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress interested in Indian issues.

Wilson says she intends to work with McDermott again this year to once again restore funding for urban Indian health care.

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.

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