Begaye calls on Congress to prioritize Indian health and allocate funding

WASHINGTON — In the face of drastic budget cuts to the Special Diabetes Programs for Indians, Navajo President Russell Begaye called on Congress and federal agencies to prioritize Indian health and allocate funding for essential programs Jan. 17.

President Russell Begaye told top federal administrators that the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) is essential on the Navajo Nation, where one in three people is diabetic or pre-diabetic. His remarks, delivered at a meeting of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee, came the same day the House Rules Committee considered a short-term funding bill designed to avert a government shutdown Friday.

The bill, which would fund the government through Feb. 16, does not include reauthorization of SDPI—or the $150 million annually needed to operate it. The House likely will vote on the measure Thursday, with the Senate following shortly thereafter. Funding for SDPI is set to expire on March 31.

“We need strong support for the Special Diabetes Program,” President Begaye said. “We need the federal government to prioritize Indian health and Indian lives. This program is critical.”

Should the stopgap bill pass without SDPI funding, Congress could add it back into a later bill. This week’s bill is the fourth of its kind since September.

The Special Diabetes Program for Indians, established by Congress in 1997, is administered by the Indian Health Service’s Division of Diabetes. It is tasked with helping to prevent and treat diabetes and related complications among Native Americans, who have the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes in the country.

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