Dr. Ruiz, Rep. Pallone, Rep. Levin Discuss Policies to Empower Indian Country with Tribal Leaders

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WASHINGTON, DC – Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Ranking Member Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) held a roundtable discussion with more than 20 tribal leaders to discuss the work their committees are doing to improve health care delivery in Indian Country, create tribal mental health and suicide prevention programs, and support tribal economic development.
“I was humbled by the vision and strength our tribal leaders provided as we discussed access to essential health care services, the inadequate resources in our underserved communities, suicide prevention, and economic development.” said Dr. Ruiz. “Putting tribes front and center in policymaking empowers tribes to problem solve and create solutions to important issues in Indian Country and our nation.”
“While we have made significant strides in recent years, there is much more we must do to promote policies that benefit Indian Country,” said Pallone.  “Thanks to the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, tribal members now have increased access to the affordable, quality health care they deserve.  But in order for Indian nations to reach their greatest potential, we must continue to tackle the stark and inexcusable health disparities that still exist in native populations because, ultimately, this is a civil rights issue. We must be making investments in the Indian Health Service, creating new evidence-based public health programs like the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, and closing the gaps in care for patients that still persist. I’m proud to have been part of this discussion and look forward to continue working with tribal leaders to identify and address the unique needs of their communities.”
“This roundtable was a great opportunity to hear from a diverse group of tribal leaders about some of the most pressing issues in Indian Country, including ways to improve access to quality health care, address tax issues, and strengthen economic empowerment,” said Rep. Levin.“I look forward to continuing to work with tribes and the Administration to ensure all Americans have the support and tools they need to thrive.”
“NCAI appreciates Congressman Ruiz for organizing this Congressional Roundtable,” said NCAI President Brian Cladoosby. “It was great to see tribal leaders from across the country and Members of Congress meeting together to address issues impacting Indian Country including bullying, suicide, and IHS services as well as how we can continue to make improvements.”
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for American Indian youth ages 15-24, and more than twice the national rate among the same age group.
According to a 2010 National Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup study, per capita spending on Indian Health Services (IHS) programs was below half of the national average.
Representative Raul Ruiz, M.D. is the Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs, which oversees matters regarding Native American tribes across the country.
Representative Frank Pallone is the Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over issues pertaining to energy, environment, health care, commerce, and telecommunications.
Representative Sander Levin is the Ranking Member of the House Ways and Committee, which has jurisdiction over all tax, trade and economic growth policies and entitlement spending, including Social Security, Medicare, welfare and unemployment compensation.