Leaders Discuss American Indian Suicide Rates, IHS Funding at Regional Conference
Acting Indian Health Service Director Robert McSwain and other health officials discussed suicide rates among American Indians and federal funding for IHS at a meeting of tribal and state leaders in Denver last week, Indian Country Today reports. The discussion was part of HHS' 2008 Tribal Consultation for tribes in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.
McSwain said the Bush administration's proposed 2009 budget would cut $11 million from substance abuse prevention and behavioral health programs, $21 million from health facilities construction, $14 million in funding for health professionals and $35 million from urban health programs. The proposed cuts also include a loss in funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Circles of Care program, which has substance abuse and mental health components and is the only SAMHSA program with funds allotted specifically for American Indians, according to Estelle Bowman, SAMHSA senior adviser for tribal affairs.
The budget proposal is Bush's third attempt at cutting funding for urban American Indian health programs, although the attempts "have been thwarted in the past when Congress restored the funding," Indian County Today reports. McSwain added that funding for urban American Indian health centers and other programs would be protected if Congress reauthorizes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.
In an address at the meeting, McSwain said the suicide rate among American Indians "may be the highest suicide rate in the world," adding that HHS has formed a team to visit reservations where suicides occur and is taking other measures to "address the alarming problem we are facing." He said that methamphetamine abuse among American Indians is a growing concern and that "Congress has heard" tribal leaders' plea for federal help with the issues by including $14 million for suicide and mental health prevention in the 2008 IHS budget (Berry, Indian Country Today, 3/31).