Immediate Release: Saturday, January 23, 2016
South Dakota Democratic Party responds to Noem’s IHS comments.
Sioux Falls, SD (January 23, 2016)-
South Dakota Democratic Party officials responded to Representative Kristi Noem’s recent remarks regarding the need to improve the deteriorating healthcare conditions on Native American reservations.
“While we support any effort to improve the poor healthcare conditions in tribal communities, we wish Rep. Noem would have been paying more attention when she voted to cut $220 million from Indian Health Services (IHS) in 2011,” said Communications Director Michael Ewald, referring to the federal agency charged with providing adequate healthcare to Native Americans.
Rep. Noem, along with Congressional Republicans, voted for the Budget Control Act of 2011 which caused the automatic budget cuts in 2013 known as “sequestration” which resulted in significant reductions in government services, including IHS.
It had particular harsh impacts on the suicide epidemic on Pine Ridge. Indian Health Board Chairperson Cathy Abramson told lawmakers at the time “behavioral health services on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota will be reduced because of sequestration. She said the reservation suffers regularly “with suicide, alcoholism and other substance-abuse issues.” “There have been 100 suicide attempts in 110 days on Pine Ridge. Because of sequestration they will not be able to hire two mental health service providers,”
“The sequestration cuts are literally a matter of life and death for American Indians,” she said.
“It’s a crisis of her own creation. IHS has always had funding problems. It was obvious sequestration would make a bad situation worse.” Ewald continued.
IHS predicted the cuts would nationwide “lead to 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 804,000 fewer outpatient visits each year.”
Additionally, Democrats were critical Rep. Noem wouldn’t comment on the Medicaid expansion proposal likely to come before the state legislature. “It’s clear by her refusal to answer questions about Medicaid expansion that she hasn’t thought through her position enough to provide the leadership our Native American communities severely need.”
The legislation would expand Medicaid to an estimated 50,000 South Dakotans and revise issues with IHS administration, significantly improving access and care to Native Americans.
So why the tough talk now on tribal healthcare?
“I think Representative Noem has so few accomplishments from her time in the House that she’s worried about her next election. I would be too when you’re so loyal to the establishment in Washington that you can’t voice support back home for a policy universally recognized to make a substantial impact. Where’s the leadership in that?” Ewald said.