fbpx
 
Displaying his love of his culture dispute his disability. Native News Online photo by Levi Rickert.

FARMINGTON, N.M. — The Native American Disability Law Center on Monday asked the Indian Health Service (IHS) for reassurance that agency provisions are in place to make sure with American Indian and Alaska Natives with disabilities have equal access to medical care and equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In correspondence sent Rear Admiral Michael D. Weahkee, the principal deputy director of the Indian Health Services, the Law Center says it is concerned because the IHS medical rationing policy is not publicly available, and disability advocates are concerned by the lack of response they have received from Indian Health Services on the issue.

“Frequently, people with disabilities are viewed as having a lower quality of life, which is not true. All individuals regardless of having a disability or not deserve an opportunity to live full lives. During this time especially that means everyone deserves equal access to medical care,” the Law Center’s Executive Director Therese Yanan said.

According to the US Census, 24 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives have a disability, compared to 19 percent of the general population. However, many American Indians and Alaska Natives with disabilities are either unserved or underserved, according to the Law Center.  

Yanan says calls and emails to regional and national IHS staff and leadership have gone unanswered, and the situation at IHS hospitals continues to worsen. 

During an April 8, 2020 webinar call, Navajo Nation officials stated that IHS hospitals on the Navajo Nation are currently at capacity, are experiencing staff shortages, lack Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and have closed smaller clinics in order to staff hospitals. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Native American communities particularly hard and fair policies to ensure equal access to medical care are essential.

Yanan said IHS needs to make their medical rationing policies publicly available and fulfill its mandate to provide services in a non-discriminatory manner with language that safeguards the civil rights of Native Americans with disabilities.

“In this public health emergency, Native Americans with disabilities are especially at risk. Medical care rationing protocols can include ‘quality of life’ considerations that open the door to negative stereotypes about the lives of people with disabilities that can result in not being equally considered for medical care, like use of a ventilator, that they have a legal right of equal opportunity to. This equal opportunity is required by federal anti-discrimination laws, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act,” Yanan said.

An inquiry to IHS by Native News Online was not answered by press time.

More Stories Like This

Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Citizen, Justice Mark Montour,  Appointed State Appellate Court Justice
Hundreds Gather in St. Paul for Boarding School Survivors Candlelight Vigil
Walk to Freedom for Leonard Peltier Halfway to Washington
President Biden Welcomes a “Conversation” about Atlanta Braves’s Name and the Infamous Tomahawk Chop
Through the Eyes of a 6-Year-old Child, Orange Became a Symbol of an Indigenous Movement

Do you appreciate a Native perspective on the news? 

For the past decade-plus, we’ve covered the important Indigenous stories that are often overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the toppling of colonizer statues during the racial equity protests, to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools, we have been there to provide a Native perspective and elevate Native voices.

Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.  Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $20 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10.  Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news. 

Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you. 

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online StaffEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Native News Online is one of the most-read publications covering Indian Country and the news that matters to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous people. Reach out to us at [email protected]