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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives

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Director's Blog

Posted on Oct 27, 2015

Blackfeet Hospital Wins Montana State Award

The Indian Health Service's Blackfeet Community Hospital in Browning, Montana, has received a 2015 Health Hero award from the Eat Right Montana Coalition and the Montana Action for Healthy Kids Team. This award program is designed to recognize individuals or programs that have gone considerably beyond the requirements of a job or worked hard to promote healthy nutrition and/or physical activity. The Health Hero Award Ceremony and Luncheon was held October 23, 2015, in Helena during the annual Eat Right Montana and Action for Health Kids meeting.

The Blackfeet Hospital's Department of Obstetrics was awarded this distinction for achieving the prestigious Baby-Friendly designation and for their tireless efforts in supporting optimal infant nutrition practices. The IHS Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is working to create a healthy start for babies and prevent childhood obesity. As part of this initiative, IHS is encouraging clinicians in Indian Country to support policies and practices that foster breastfeeding as the exclusive feeding choice for infants in their first six months of life. By doing so, clinicians will reduce current and future medical problems and decrease health care costs. This initiative will use quality improvement processes to improve breastfeeding rates through new maternity care and infant feeding practices.

As part of the Baby-Friendly process, new mothers are provided education about breastfeeding, beginning with their first prenatal visit, which gives them the skills and confidence to breastfeed. Hospital staff members are trained to support breastfeeding and teach new mothers how to nurse. As a result of this initiative, breastfeeding initiation rates at many of the IHS Obstetric facilities are now in the 90th percentile for breastfeeding, and exclusive breastfeeding rates have continued to climb. The IHS is also encouraging all tribally-managed facilities to work toward their Baby-Friendly designation.

We are very proud of our staff at the Blackfeet Hospital for being presented this important statewide honor and congratulate the entire staff for their dedicated work and unwavering efforts to raise the level of care for the children in Montana.

Visit the IHS BFHI website for more information, and to read the entire list of designated IHS hospitals.

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    Thumbnail - clicking will open full size image - Kristen Krane and her child, with Supervisory Clinical Nurse Charlene Ramirez, Obstetrics/Inpatient Ward at Blackfeet Clinical Hospital

Posted on Oct 21, 2015

Urban Indian Health Centers Receive Grants to Improve Services

The Office of Urban Indian Health Programs is pleased to announce several grant awards for two programs. The first is for the Health Resources and Services Administration New Access Point Grant Awards which awards new Community Health Centers with ACA funding. The second is for the 2015 Navigator Grantees which are awarded through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

HHS Secretary Burwell announced approximately $101 million in ACA funding to new health center sites for the delivery of comprehensive primary health care services in communities that need them most. These new health centers are projected to increase access to health care services for patients.

The investment will add to the more than 550 new health center sites that have opened in the last four years as a result of the ACA. Today, nearly 1,300 health centers operate more than 9,000 service delivery sites that provide care to nearly 22 million patients -nearly 5 million more patients than at the beginning of 2009.

Community Health Centers have also been critical in helping people sign up for health insurance through the Marketplace. Since 2013, health centers assisted more than 9 million individuals in their efforts to become insured.

The following Community Health Centers received awards:

  • Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center, Inc., Lyle Ignace, MD, Executive Director, Milwaukee, WI
  • American Indian Health & Family Services, Scott Black, Executive Director, Santa Barbara, CA
  • San Diego American Indian Health Center, Joe Bulfer, Executive Director, San Diego, CA

View the complete list of current Urban Indian organizations and tribal Community Health Centers. [PDF - 83 KB]

The second award for the 2015 Navigator Grantees Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving is being awarded for a three year (36 month) project period, which runs through September 1, 2018. Navigators serve as an in-person resource for Americans who want additional assistance when shopping for and enrolling in plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

The following Urban Indian organization received a Navigator grant:

  • Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake, Shawn Jimerson, Executive Director, Salt Lake City, UT for $180,656.00

The Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake, a 2014 Navigator grantee, will target tribal and urban American Indian members of the Ute Tribe of the Ouray and Uintah Reservation, the Confederated Tribe of the Goshutes of Ibapah, and the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake who reside along the Utah's Wasatch Front. It plans to build on their experience and implement a community based, health facility/clinic based outreach and one-to-one patient and family enrollment assistance project.

Congratulations to these centers for their high achievement and work to secure these important grants!

Sherriann C. Moore
Acting Director
Office of Urban Indian Health Programs

Posted on Oct 14, 2015

IHS Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee Quarterly Meeting - Oct. 6-7, 2015

The Indian Health Service Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee held its quarterly meeting in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 6-7 with nearly 50 Tribal leaders, technical advisors and national organization representatives in attendance. The agenda covered several topics, including: IHS budget, Contract Support Costs, the Affordable Care Act and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, aligning quality data and performance measurement, and more.

The Affordable Care Act, including its reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, continue to be an important topic of discussion for Tribes. Third-party collections-such as collections from Medicaid or private insurers for patients newly covered under the Affordable Care Act-allow IHS Service Units, Tribal health facilities and Urban Indian health facilities to apply additional resources to needed activities like purchasing more care, facilities improvements and hiring more health professionals.

Through the IHS Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee and the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, IHS is continues Affordable Care Act outreach and education efforts. IHS Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee will host an Affordable Care Act webinar each month and supplement that webinar schedule with additional trainings at various national tribal conferences. As part of its outreach work, the IHS Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee has collected and published self-governance success stories on the positive impacts of enrollment Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving of Tribal members in the Marketplace.

Mr. McSwain expressed that the fiscal year 2016 budget has not yet been finalized, and the government is operating under a Continuing Resolution that expires on Dec. 11 at fiscal year 2015 enacted levels.
The next IHS Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee meeting will be held on Jan. 27-28, 2016 in D.C. Please visit the IHS Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving website for more information.

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    Thumbnail - clicking will open full size image - IHS Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee Quarterly Meeting held October 6-7, 2015

Posted on Oct 6, 2015

FY 2016 Appropriations Update for the Indian Health Service

The Indian Health Service currently is operating under a continuing resolution (CR), which provides funding from October 1 through December 11, 2015. Therefore all IHS-funded programs should be open for business as usual. Payments to Tribal programs with October 1 start dates are anticipated to be made in mid to late October. Contact your Area Director with any specific questions about your FY 2016 funding. As the CR expiration draws near, continue to check back for additional updates on our FY 2016 appropriations.

Please know that throughout this process we remain committed to providing a high standard of quality health care. We will continue to carry out our important mission of raising the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level.

Posted on Oct 2, 2015

Indian Health Service welcomes the Osage Nation to the IHS Tribal Self-Governance Program

Today, the Osage Nation assumed control of the Pawhuska Indian Health Center by entering into a Compact and Funding Agreement with the IHS under the authority of Title V of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. The IHS congratulates the Osage Nation on entering into this historic partnership with the United States of America through Tribal Self-Governance by enabling the Nation to assume full funding and control over programs, services, functions and activities that the IHS would have otherwise provided. The IHS Tribal Self-Governance Program provides Tribes with the flexibility to manage its program funds to best fit the needs of their Tribal citizens and communities.

The Osage Nation joins over 350 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes participating in the IHS Tribal Self-Governance Program. Today, the IHS has 88 Compacts and 113 Funding Agreements.

The Nation celebrated with a ribbon cutting and new name for the center. It is now called the Wah Zha Zhi Health Center.

Visit the IHS Tribal Self Governance Program website for more information.

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    Thumbnail - clicking will open full size image - Ribbon cutting ceremony. Photo courtesy of the Osage News.

Posted on Sep 29, 2015

IHS Prepares for a Potential Lapse in Funding: Patient Care Operations Will Continue

The Administration continues to strongly believe that a lapse in appropriations should not occur, and that there is enough time for Congress to act to prevent a lapse. However, prudent management requires that we prepare for an orderly execution of contingency plans in the unfortunate event of a lapse and we want to keep you informed about our plans. If there is a lapse in funding, our actions and decisions about what operations continue are governed by legal opinions issued by the Attorney General and the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice.

In consultation with our Office of General Counsel, we have reviewed our contingency plan and made any necessary updates to our determinations of the activities that may continue under these legal requirements.

In general, operational and administrative activities cannot continue when there is a lapse in funding. However, employees involved in the safety of human life or the protection of property will continue operations. Therefore, all IHS direct patient care operations will continue.

In addition, IHS has determined that all contracts and compacts under P.L.93-638 provide healthcare services that involve the safety of human life so we consider all of them excepted, and we encourage Tribes to continue to operate their healthcare services with existing obligated funding and alternate resources. We appreciate your help in ensuring that the patients we serve still have access to healthcare to preserve the safety of human life.

Urban Indian Organizations funded by IHS under Title V of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act are supported by IHS grants and contracts that could be impacted if a lapse in funding would occur. Notices have been sent to each Urban Indian Organization to inform them as to how funding would be affected by the potential lapse.

While a furlough would greatly impact IHS, we are committed to ensuring the safety of our patients and will continue to provide quality health care services.

If a lapse in funding does occur, we will hold an All Tribes and Urban Indian Organizations call to keep you informed and to address your questions.

Thank you your patience through this process.

Posted on Sep 23, 2015

Get Your Flu Shot Today!

It is flu season again, and the best way to avoid getting sick is to get a flu shot. Everyone six months and older should get a flu shot every year. It is best to get a flu vaccine by October, but people who receive it later may still benefit from it.

The HHS Healthy People 2020 goals for flu vaccine Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving are for 70 percent of people six months and older to get a flu shot, and for 90 percent of health care personnel to be vaccinated against flu each year. According to IHS quarterly immunization statistics, influenza vaccine coverage has remained fairly level over the last five flu seasons, and was well below the Healthy People 2020 goals.

Please get your flu shot this year and encourage your co-workers to do so as well. If you work directly with patients, ask them to get their flu shot too. Vaccination strengthens communities and helps protect the circle of life.

Posted on Sep 18, 2015

IHS Hosting Listening Session at the National Indian Health Board Annual Consumer Conference: September 21, 2015

The IHS is hosting a listening session at the National Indian Health Board 32nd Annual Consumer Conference [PDF] Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving on its pre-conference day - Monday, September 21, 2015. The session is from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Jefferson Room at the Washington Hilton Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving in Washington, D.C.

The session is an opportunity for the IHS Principal Deputy Director Robert McSwain to hear the concerns, recommendations and input from Tribal Leaders and conference attendees about the health care needs and delivery in Indian Country. Agency experts on topics ranging from the Affordable Care Act to quality of care to a number of other important issues will be in attendance to hear feedback and answer questions.

Listening Sessions are an important part of the IHS commitment to renew and strengthen partnerships with Tribes and Urban Indian health programs. Tribal leaders and conference attendees are encouraged to attend the session and share ideas and input on ways to improve the Indian Health Service.

The session is free and open to the public. Participants do not have to be registered for the conference to attend the IHS listening session.

Posted on Sep 17, 2015

IHS Hosts Second LGBT Listening Session: September 11, 2015

Last week, IHS held a second public meeting on health issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people. This session, held at the Health and Human Services Hubert Humphrey Building in Washington, DC, was part of a series to gain a better understanding of the health care needs of AI/AN LGBT individuals.

This meeting was planned due to requests from community members for continued conversations with IHS leadership during the United States Conference on AIDS. While HIV and AIDS are not LGBT-specific health issues, the LGBT population is often disproportionately burdened by HIV infections. Several of the sessions' participants were able to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend both meetings.

Participants brought a number of concerns to the table, including recommendations in the areas of clinical practice, behavioral health, customer service and organizational strategies. Additionally, participants stressed the importance of including traditional and cultural components when addressing AI/AN LGBT health care needs and delivery challenges.

We thank our participants for offering us the opportunity to advance and promote the health of American Indian and Alaska Native LGBT communities.

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    Thumbnail - clicking will open full size image - A group of 15 session attendees and IHS staff gathered for a photo in the conference room at the HHS Humphrey Building during the IHS Second Listening Session on American Indian and Alaska Native Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health Issues.

Posted on Sep 9, 2015

2015 IHS Area Listening Sessions Completed

Over the past six months, we completed Listening Sessions in each of the 12 IHS Areas across the country. Held annually in each Area, these important meetings serve as a forum for Tribes to meet with IHS leadership to discuss agency priorities and offer guidance on ways to improve the IHS.

Listening Sessions renew and strengthen the IHS partnership with Tribes and Urban Indian Health Programs, one of our most important IHS priorities.

We benefited tremendously from the broad group of Tribal Leaders and community members who participated. If you took time to attend a meeting, thank you again for your contributions.

During our conversations, we discussed a range of issues, including:

  • caring for elders;
  • barriers to accessing health care, including transportation and staff recruitment and retention;
  • purchased/referred care;
  • prescription drug, alcohol and substance abuse;
  • behavioral health;
  • support for youth;
  • contract support costs;
  • Joint Venture Construction Program funding;
  • Federal Labor Standards Act Union grievance settlement;
  • and other valuable topics.

Partnerships over the past few years have resulted in positive outcomes, and there is clearly more for us to do.

We commit to working together with Tribes towards the IHS mission of raising the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level. We work to ensure that IHS work reflects the input from all of the Tribes we serve. Listening Sessions around the country renew and strengthen valued partnerships.

We appreciate these opportunities to hear and learn about the health care needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives across the country.

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    Thumbnail - clicking will open full size image - IHS Principal Deputy Director Mr. Robert G. McSwain attended each of these meetings, as did many other IHS senior leaders and staff.
    Thumbnail - clicking will open full size image - Tribal Leaders and IHS discussed high priority topics for Tribes.