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WASHINGTON — In addition to articles already covered by Native News Online, here is a roundup of other news released from Washington, D.C. that impacts Indian Country recently.

Sen.Murkowski Introduces Legislation to Combat Rabies in Tribal & Rural Communities

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Vice Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA), introduced S.4365 the Veterinary Services to Improve Public Health in Rural Communities Act, to prevent and control severe and life threatening zoonotic diseases (infections that spread between people and animals), in rural, tribal communities. The bill would direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Indian Health Service (IHS) to provide Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations with veterinary services including spaying and neutering of domestic animals. Studies show that Native children have the highest rate of dog bite injuries in the nation, and the highest rate of dog bite hospitalizations occur in rural Alaska leading to high levels of rabies transmission.

“Unfortunately, in Alaska we are experiencing more frequent rabies outbreaks in wild animal populations. Rural communities are disproportionately at higher risk of rabies transmission to humans due to uncontrolled dog populations in remote areas of Alaska—which is particularly concerning given the challenges of providing health care in many rural and remote villages. Vaccinations and volunteer veterinary services are working hard to help address this issue, but are simply not able to meet the growing need for services. My bill would help bolster the veterinary workforce in Alaska, creating healthier and safer communities across the state,” Vice Chair Murkowski said.

The Veterinary Services to Improve Public Health in Rural Communities Act does the following:

The Veterinary Services to Improve Public Health in Rural Communities Act would:

  1. Amend the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to authorize IHS to provide public health veterinary services to Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations in IHS Service Areas where zoonotic diseases are endemic and the risk of transmission is elevated due to uncontrolled dog populations.
  2.  Allow Tribes and Tribal organizations to receive IHS funding for such services in their 638 self-governance compacts with IHS. These services would include eligibility to spay and neuter dogs.
  3. Provide IHS with veterinary officers from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to fulfill the purposes of the bill.
  1. Direct IHS to coordinate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the implementation of the bill. 
  1. Require a biannual report to Congress on the bill programs and use of funds.
  2. Direct USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services to conduct a feasibility study on deploying and improving the delivery of oral rabies vaccine in Arctic regions of the country.
  3. Amend existing statute to designate IHS as a co-coordinating agency in the National One Health Framework, an initiative to address zoonotic diseases and advance public health preparedness across federal agencies. 

The legislation was referred to the Committee. To view a copy of the bill, click here.

IHS Update on Community Health Aide Program (CHAP) Expansion Activities

Indian Health Service (IHS) Director Roselyn Tso and CHAP Tribal Advisory Group (TAG) Co-Chair Brook Bender issued a joint update to Tribal leaders on collaborative efforts to support and expand CHAP in Indian country. The letter affirms that the "collective aim is to ensure the CHAP's expansion into the lower 48 states and its continuing development in Alaska[.]"

Further updates and links to the CHAP website and IHS's dedicated email for this work is in this Dear Tribal Leader Letter.

National Aging and Disability Transportation Center Equitable Transportation Grants
These grants are for the development of written plans to increase the availability of accessible and equitable transportation services in rural areas. Grants of up to $35,000 will be awarded. Tribal Title VI aging programs and Tribal transit agencies are encouraged to apply. Proposals should:
  • Identify transportation barriers
  • Consider current and future community needs
  • Actively engage elders and people with disabilities in the process
  • Create or strengthen multisector collaborative partnerships
Applications are due June 7. Learn more about this transporting funding opportunity here.
SAMHSA Tribal Opioid Response Grants
The purpose of this program is to assist in addressing the opioid overdose crisis in Tribal communities by increasing access to FDA-approved medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder, and supporting the continuum of prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support services for opioid use disorder and co-occurring substance use disorders. The Notice of Funding Opportunity and Application Guide contain detailed eligibility and submission information for interested applicants. Up to 130 awards of up to $63 million are anticipated. Applications are due July 1 via www.grants.gov (TI-24-009).

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