Task Force aims to improve health care to Native Americans
■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Reporter
A bipartisan Indian Health Service (IHS) Task Force will be co-chaired by Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA). The task force will look for methods to improve the tribal health system and raise awareness to the challenges it faces. Ruiz represents California’s 36th district, including the San Jacinto Valley. Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) also co-chairs the task force that is comprised of seven democrats and seven republicans.
Republican Congressmen Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Tom-Cole (R-OK) are two members of the task force and the only two Native Americans currently serving in the House. Cole is a member of the Chicksaw Nation and was awarded the Congressional Leadership Award by the National Congress of American Indians in 2007 and 2011 and was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 2004. Mullin is a member of the Cherokee Nation and is a co-chair of the Men’s Health Caucus and of the Regulatory Review Caucus.
“The Soboba Tribal Council appreciates the leadership role of Congressman Ruiz as co-chair of the Indian Health Service Task Force,” said Soboba Tribal Chairman Scott Cozart. “We encourage all members of the Task Force to keep in mind the overall IHS mission to raise to the highest level the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of Native people. We look forward to the fulfillment of those goals, not only for today but for our future generations.”
Congressional District 36 is home to 11 tribes including Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians, Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians, Colorado River Indian Tribes of the Colorado River Indian Reservation, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Ramona Band of Cahuilla, Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians, Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, Torres Martinez Band of Desert Cahuilla Indians and Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians.
The FY 2018 Indian Country Budget Request Report regarding IHS states that it “represents an opportunity for a new president and administration to continue to build on the gains of the last several years. This budget is also chance to fully break with the travesties of the past that have been suffered (and continue to affect) the First Peoples of the nation and move towards solidifying the commitments made to tribes.”
It goes on to state, “The budget presented in FY 2018 is a chance for the new president to make a mark for Indian health. We can reduce and also eliminate the health disparities suffered by so many of our people. The target for the IHS budget is $30.8 billion over 12 years. Embarking on a pathway toward full funding will change the conversation on Indian Health and will bring a measure of hope for a better life for the next generation of our indigenous peoples.”
The bipartisan task force was created under the House Energy and Commerce Committee and includes: Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), co-chairman, Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), co-chairman, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN).