Char-Koosta News

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Council Member Stevens’ DC Trip Report

By Patty Stevens
Council Member
Mission District

Council woman Patty StevensCouncil Representative Patty Stevens. (file photo)

Council woman Fyant and I spent May 4-8 in Arlington VA attending the 2014 Tribal Self-Governance Annual Consultation Conference. Today, more than 65 percent of the 567 Federally-recognized Tribes are operating under Compacts of Self-Governance with the U.S. Government. Tribal and Federal partners gathered to discuss policy, legislative and budget issues. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes was highlighted by DOI Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn because we are leading the way with our Fee-to-Trust Program. I thank our Acting Department Head, Teresa Wall-McDonald, for all her hard work on this issue. We attended informative sessions from 8 a.m. to almost 6 p.m. each day.

The first couple of days were devoted to IHS. In all my years of service to my people, understanding our healthcare system has been the most difficult. These two days were no different. Two years ago this July 4, I was in a serious horse accident. Just recently I was contacted by a Collections agency because a company had turned over an unpaid bill. They hadn’t been paid yet.

BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS……We were informed that under the Affordable Care Act, which reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, that the service provider can’t take action against the patient if the care has been approved by the Indian Health Service. I’ve asked our Tribal Self-Governance Coordinator to do a separate notice to Tribal members regarding this issue. It doesn’t get the bill paid any faster but at least it can stop the phone calls and threats of collection action we all seem to be getting.

There was a panel on “Funding to Implement the Tribal Law and Order Act”. Here at home, under SAMHSA (Doug Morigeau and Wendy Askan), we are one of the Tribes strategically planning for substance abuse, suicide prevention, tribal justice and safety. There are several of us in this work group that are excited to get started planning activities to address these important issues in our communities. This panel mentioned the value of action planning to draw the community together. Our Tribes recently took action to step it up a little with the formation of the Substance Abuse Work Group, now known as COMMUNITY STRONG. I believe there are gaps in services for ages 18-24. But the good news is that there are elders and many community members going above and beyond because we want to improve the wellness of our people.

The third and fourth days were devoted to Department of Interior programs. I attended a session entitled “ICWA Post Baby Veronica: An Update on ICWA Implications and Strategies to Strengthen Tribal Government Processes”. In all my years under the expert guidance of Attorney Evelyn Stevenson, it felt like a big step backwards with this ruling. It has been a difficult journey over the years protecting our children in the state court systems and we’re going to have to work a little harder now. I’ve been an Expert Witness for ICWA for many years now and we need more members to step up and do this. While here, I received a call to testify because there is nobody else qualified to do so. It’s not rocket science to testify for the protection of our tribal children. It just takes a little bit of your time. We also need more tribal foster homes. We all need to demonstrate that our children are our most important resource.

I enjoyed the opportunity to represent the CSKT and to learn about the important initiative of tribal self-governance.

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