Indian Health Service (IHS) Director's Corner Blog IHS Director's updates on important issues affecting the Indian Health Service. en-us FY 2016 Appropriations Update for the Indian Health Service Tuesday, October 6, 2015 ]]> 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.

Indian Health Service welcomes the Osage Nation to the IHS Tribal Self-Governance Program Friday, October 2, 2015 ]]> 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.

October 2015 Blogs Thursday, October 1, 2015 ]]>
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IHS Prepares for a Potential Lapse in Funding: Patient Care Operations Will Continue Tuesday, September 29, 2015 ]]> 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.

Get Your Flu Shot Today! Wednesday, September 23, 2015 ]]> 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.

IHS Hosting Listening Session at the National Indian Health Board Annual Consumer Conference: September 21, 2015 Friday, September 18, 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.

IHS Hosts Second LGBT Listening Session: September 11, 2015 Thursday, September 17, 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.

2015 IHS Area Listening Sessions Completed Wednesday, September 9, 2015 ]]> 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.

Preventing Suicide with Hope for Life Wednesday, September 2, 2015 ]]> Join the National American Indian and Alaska Native Suicide Prevention Hope for Life Day on September 10. Across the country, events will promote awareness and health to reduce the number of suicides among American Indians and Alaska Natives people.

Despite the strengths of American Indian and Alaska Native families, suicide remains a devastating and all-too-frequent event. Factors that protect youth and adults against suicidal behavior include:

  • a sense of belonging to one's culture;
  • a strong tribal or spiritual bond;
  • the opportunity to discuss problems with family or friends;
  • feeling connected to family;
  • and positive emotional health.

You can organize a Hope for Life Day event in your community. The American Indian/Alaska Native Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving developed a toolkit to encourage participation. Use this toolkit Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving of sample organizing materials, letters, and tribal resolutions to get started.

"Suicide prevention depends on bringing together native communities, as Hope for Life Day will do. IHS works with partners to create a safety net of services to protect individuals against suicide risk and maximize the effectiveness of programs," said Indian Health Service Principal Deputy Director Robert G. McSwain.

The IHS Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention Initiative and the IHS Suicide Prevention Program represent a major commitment of resources to these critical health needs.

Together we can create a safe and healthy future for youth and for all communities.

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    Thumbnail - clicking will open full size image - American Indian/Alaska Native Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention web site image
    Thumbnail - clicking will open full size image - Suicide Prevention ribbon

Report Available: Meeting on LGBT Health Issues Wednesday, August 12, 2015 ]]> A few weeks ago, IHS Headquarters in Maryland hosted a public meeting on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health issues.

The summary report of this important meeting is now available. Please take a moment to review this report and the priorities shared by meeting participants. This meeting was one valuable step in a process of transparent, accountable, fair, and inclusive decision-making specific to American Indian and Alaska Native LGBT people.

Meeting Report: Indian Health Service Meeting on American Indian/Alaska Native Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health Issues [PDF - 81 KB]

Read the blog thanking participants.