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NIHB Testimonies Before the House Appropriations Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee

March 17, 2017

NIHB Board Member Victoria Kitcheyan, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, testified before two Congressional committees this week to offer priorities for Indian healthcare in the 115th Congress.

Testimony Before the House Appropriations Committee
The House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health
& Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) held a public hearing on Wednesday, March 8, to gather input on the FY 2018 federal healthcare budget.
Ms. Kitcheyan, NIHB’s Great Plains representative, relayed these requests to the Labor-HHS Subcommittee:
  • Create base funding for Tribal communities through the CDC’s Preventive Health and Health Services grant program by allocating at least 5 percent to Indian Tribes directly.
  • Direct funds from the Mental Health Services Block Grant and the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Budget to Tribes so that they can develop comprehensive and achievable response plans for public health crises.
  • Fund $50 million for the Tribal Behavioral Health Grants program and for specific issues: suicide interventions, expansion of mental health counseling capacity and infrastructure, and surveillance of and mediation for increasing levels of domestic violence.
  • Increase the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Circles of Care funding to eliminate mental health disparities by providing AI/AN communities with tools and resources to design and sustain their own culturally competent system of care approach for children.
  • Allocate specific funding for Substance Abuse Block Grant directly to Tribal communities so that there can be continuous, sustained funding to help address long-term substance abuse issues in Tribal communities.
  • Preserve AI/AN protections in the healthcare system, including freedom from premiums and cost sharing, prohibition of classifying trust lands and cultural and religious items as resources for eligibility purposes, and other protections.
  • Ensure that States do not create any barriers to access to Medicaid for American Indians and Alaska Natives, such as work requirements, time limits, co-pays or usage caps.
  • Provide oversight on CMS to ensure that any Medicaid waiver applications submitted are developed with significant Tribal consultation.
  • Expand self-governance authority to programs in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Self-governance represents efficiency, accountability and best practices in managing and operating Tribal programs and administering Federal funds at the local level.
Chairman Tom Cole, Chickasaw Nation, thanked Ms. Kitcheyan and the National Indian Health Board for their continued advocacy for all 567 Tribes in all 12 IHS Service Areas. You can read Ms. Kitcheyan’s full testimony HERE or watch the hearing HERE (She begins speaking at the 1:39:00 mark).


Testimony Before the House Natural Resources Committee
The following day, March 9, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs held a hearing on Indian Country’s infrastructure needs. Health infrastructure – both in terms of physical buildings and Health IT are critical needs in Indian Country. NIHB testified that both of these investments should be prioritized in any infrastructure package that Congress considers.


Victoria Kitcheyan, again representing NIHB, presented solutions to the Health IT infrastructure challenge to Congress. She noted that on average, IHS hospitals are 40 years of age, four times as old as the average hospital in the U.S. Additionally, from 2010 to 2016, IHS facilities construction budget has been so underfunded that a new facility built today would not be replaced for another 400 years.


Ms. Kitcheyan stressed that Congress should prioritize the 13 projects that have been on IHS’s construction list since the 1990s. Additionally, she urged Congress to allocate funds to prioritize maintenance, equipment, sanitation investments, broadband infrastructure, and housing for medical professionals in rural Indian Country. You can read her full testimony HERE or watch the hearing HERE (She begins at the 31:10 mark). Also testifying at the hearing were:


  • Herman G. Honanie, Chairman of the Hopi Tribe
  • Andrew Joseph Jr., Chairman of the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board
  • Aaron Payment, Secretary of the National Congress of American Indians
  • Andy Teuber, Board Chair and President of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
  • Nikolao Pula, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior
NIHB is eager to work with Congress to address these long-standing issues and bring quality healthcare to American Indians and Alaska Natives. These hearings and testimonies are only the first steps. Much more remains to be done.
If you have any questions about NIHB’s legislative priorities related to facilities and infrastructure, please contact NIHB’s Director of Congressional Relations, Caitrin Shuy at cshuy@nihb.org or (202) 507-4085.

Last modified: November 11, 2019