U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources
February 26, 2008
Senate Bill Includes Major Provisions Authored By Young
To Address Alaska Native Dental Crisis In Rural Alaska & Behavioral Health Issues
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) issued the following statement today regarding U.S. Senate passage of the Indian Health Care Improvement Reauthorization legislation which includes provisions authored by Young to enhance and expand federal programs to enhance a variety of health and dental care programs for rural Alaska Natives and American Indians.
Young is the Ranking Member on the Natural Resources Committee, which favorably reported the bill out of the Committee on Natural Resources (H.R. 1328) on April 25, 2007.
He is a main sponsor of the House legislation along with Representative Nick J. Rahall II (D-WV), the Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, and Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), the Chairman of Subcommittee on Health of the House Energy and Business Committee.
"Senators Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski are to be commended for their leadership in moving this important legislation through the Senate. After several months of bipartisan and bicameral negotiations, both the House and Senate appear to have negotiated a good bill that has strong bipartisan support.
"I'm especially pleased the Senate agreed during our negotiations to preserve all of the provisions I had authored in the House bill including the Dental Health Aide Plan which is of vital importance in dealing with the crisis in rural Alaska with dental health care and the retention of rural dentists in Alaska.
"The dental care situation in rural Alaska mirrors 3rd World conditions. In excess of one-third of Alaska Native school children have missed school because of dental pain. Recruitment and retention of rural dentists cannot make dental care accessible in most Alaska Native villages except on an itinerant basis.
"Even if we filled every vacancy in rural Alaska, it would take over ten years to catch up on the accumulation of dental needs.
"Our Dental Health Aide Therapists Plan was initiated in 2003 by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to address the dental crisis in rural Alaska. Hundreds of Alaska Natives have had the opportunity to be treated by the new dental therapists and report positive experiences with the quality of care.
"I have had several public health organizations, including those of dentists, endorse the Dental Health Aide Therapists Program. Also, I have reviewed and met with participants of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation program. I was extremely impressed with the training the dental therapists receive, with their oversight and supervision by a licensed dentist, and with their quality of care. While prevention activities are crucial, they must be coupled with treatment - the kind of treatment that these therapists can provide safely.
"Alaskans involved in the process of drafting this bill also placed a strong emphasis on behavioral health issues. The Behavioral Health title incorporates all substance abuse, mental health issues with the onset and increase of methamphetamine use in rural Alaska. Congressman Young voted for the Omnibus bill last session which included an additional $14 million for methamphetamine treatment and prevention programs in the areas with the greatest need within Indian country. "The methamphetamine use is a rising issue in rural Alaska and we must address this at the onset of the problem to began preventive treatments and care for rural Alaskans".
"I also want to thank the Countrywide Steering Committee of the Countrywide Indian health board and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium for their efforts in moving this bill forward and addressing many of Alaska's concerns."
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Young has been involved in the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) since its 1st authorization in the 94th Congress and since reauthorization efforts began in 1992 when he was Chairman of the House Resources Committee. During this reauthorization effort, Young and his staff have worked with the Countrywide Indian Health Board, the Alaska Native Health Board, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Indian Health Service, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and tribal groups who administer their own health programs to outline a bill addressing the needs of their constituents with this important reauthorization of the IHCIA.
Young is the original author of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Reauthorization bill which provides Countrywide Indian health care to over 2 million American Indian and Alaska Natives. The IHCIA became Public Law 94-437 in the 94th Congress and has been amended 7 times.