Vice Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Tom Udall – D – New Mexico
Published February 4, 2018
ALBUQUERQUE – On Saturday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall heard from Tribal and community health care providers and experts that they are deeply concerned about the future of federal funding for health programs that are critically important in New Mexico, including the Community Health Centers Program and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI). The two programs provide care for thousands of New Mexicans regardless of their ability to pay, but their future is uncertain thanks to the deadlock in Congress over the budget.
The health experts’ comments came during a roundtable that Udall organized in Albuquerque to hear about how uncertain funding for the programs is impacting New Mexicans. Technically, funding for both programs expired at the end of September, though Congress has given each program temporary funding that will run out next month. But if a long-term agreement isn’t put in place very soon, SDPI-funded activities could cease. And health clinics across the state could be forced to cut their budgets by a drastic – and potentially deadly – 70 percent.
Udall, who serves as vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said the information he learned at the roundtable will help him in Washington as he continues his fight for full funding for both health programs.
“The Community Health Centers Program and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians are critical to providing that care to thousands of New Mexicans. Community health centers are the backbone of health care in New Mexico, providing care to many of our most vulnerable. And the Special Diabetes Program for Indians is making real progress to combat diabetes so it never again becomes a death sentence in Indian Country,” Udall said. “Unfortunately, while congressional Republicans and President Trump were prioritizing tax cuts for millionaires and corporations, they neglected to pay the bills for these health care programs that working families depend on. I’m not going to stand by and let hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans lose their vital health care services. We must work together and put people’s health and well-being first. I am very grateful to today’s speakers, who gave me important information that will help me continue my effort to convince Congress that we must fund these programs urgently.”
Over 325,000 New Mexicans in 90 underserved and rural communities rely on the care they receive from the state’s 17 community health centers, which operate at 195 branches and locations and employ almost 3,000 people across the state. Separately, SDPI provides grants for diabetes prevention and management programs for Pueblos and Tribes throughout Indian Country, including 29 programs in New Mexico. Through SDPI, Pueblos and Tribes have had tremendous success fighting diabetes – a public health crisis that disproportionally affects Native Americans.
Linda Son-Stone, CEO of First Nations Community Health Source commented about SDPI funding:
“Continued funding for Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) is extremely necessary. Native Americans have the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes and the highest death rates from diabetes in New Mexico and in the country. At our clinic, we have close to 500 Native American patients with a known diagnosis of diabetes. We depend on SDPI funding to decrease the onset of diabetes and its costly complications among the urban Indians in Albuquerque,” Son-Stone said. “With SDPI funds, we use treatment and prevention practices that have been proven effective in reducing diabetes rates. The loss of these funds will have a devastating impact that will include the unnecessary loss of human lives to diabetes. We urge Congress to reauthorize SDPI funding immediately.”