HRSA Meets with Tribal Leaders

HRSA's delegation to the National Tribal Health Conference in Temecula, California on Sept. 16-19, led by Acting Administrator Tom Engels (center), met with National Indian Health Board Chairwoman Victoria Kitcheyan (second from right) and included (from left) CAPT Elijah Martin Jr., HRSA's Office of Health Equity; Melissa Ryan, BHW Shortage Designation director; and Michelle Allender, Director of HRSA's Office of Health Equity.
HRSA's delegation to the National Tribal Health Conference in Temecula, California on September 16-19, led by Acting Administrator Tom Engels (center), met with National Indian Health Board Chairwoman Victoria Kitcheyan (second from right) and included (from left) CAPT Elijah Martin Jr., HRSA's Office of Health Equity; Melissa Ryan, BHW Shortage Designation director; and Michelle Allender, Director of HRSA's Office of Health Equity.

 

Established in 1972, the board is the non-profit representative of 566 tribal governments in 12 regions nationwide, charged with ensuring that the federal government upholds its "trust responsibilities" to provide health care to the Tribes.  The board plays a central role in focusing national attention on American Indian and Alaska Native health care and public health needs.

Also attending the Temecula conference were delegations from the Indian Health Service, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, the Veterans Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

With over 150 tribal leaders in attendance, board members recommended that HRSA establish a tribal advisory group to assist the agency as it implements policies and initiatives in Indian Country, including the agency's Shortage Designation Project and an update to its tribal consultation policy. The Bureau of Health Workforce is responsible for determining shortage areas -- one of HRSA's most sensitive functions, as the designations are used to decide eligibility for scores of federal and state programs in high-poverty regions of the country.

Engels assured tribal representatives that he firmly supports the formal creation of an advisory council -- to function in much the same way as primary care associations and other partnering groups do in the agency's dealings with state governments. Martin said the plan is underway but will take several months to complete. In the meantime, the Acting Administrator said, HRSA has a dedicated email box for questions, concerns and suggestions.

"HRSA is committed to addressing the health care needs of tribal communities across the country ... we want to hear from you," Engels said. "We want to work with you."

Additional clinicians are desperately needed in Indian Country, tribal leaders told HRSA officials. They expressed hope that new inducements, such as housing for providers, might be made available to help recruit more National Health Service Corps professionals.

Date Last Reviewed:  September 2019