WASHINGTON – On Monday, Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) introduced the bipartisan Tribal Medical Supplies Stockpile Access Act.

The legislation guarantees the Indian Health Service (IHS), tribal health authorities, and urban Indian organizations access to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), a federal repository of drugs and medical supplies that can be tapped if a public health emergency exhausts local supplies.

Currently, IHS and tribal health authorities’ access to the SNS is very limited and not guaranteed in the SNS statute. In contrast, states’ and large municipalities’ public health authorities have ready access to the SNS.

The Tribal Medical Supplies Stockpile Access Act comes as the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) indicated that IHS is likely to face shortages of necessary equipment as COVID-19 continues to spread.

“As our nation confronts the COVID-19 outbreak, we can’t afford to leave any community behind,” Congressman Gianforte said. “We must work to ensure Tribes and IHS have the resources they need to protect our communities and respond to this public health crisis, and our bipartisan bill offers a positive step forward. I’ll keep working with Republicans and Democrats in Congress as well as the Trump administration to ensure our health care facilities have the resources and equipment they need.”

Gianforte introduced the legislation with Co-Chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Vice Chairs Reps. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.), and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.).

“When the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services taps into our stockpile and distributes out to prevent shortages in communities across the nation, it is simply commonsense to ensure tribal nations and their health organizations are able to request and receive these vital medical supplies and medications,” said Congressman Cole. “As a member of the Chickasaw Nation and co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation that affirms the sovereignty of tribes and their vital role as public health defenders and partners.” 

“Every person in this country deserves access to lifesaving supplies during the coronavirus pandemic, but constant and severe underfunding of Indian health care puts Native American lives at risk. The bill we’re introducing today will make sure that Native communities have access to the same resources that all other communities have access to,” said Congresswoman Haaland. 

“We are facing an unprecedented public health crisis and IHS and other tribal health facilities are facing a shortage of supplies, just like many other hospitals across the country,” said Congressman Mullin. “Tribal health facilities should have the same access to stockpiled medical supplies that states and municipalities have and this legislation brings that parity to Indian Country. I will continue to work with my colleagues and the Trump Administration to ensure tribal health facilities have access to the equipment they need during this health crisis and any future crisis we might face.”

“The federal government must uphold its legal trust responsibility and ensure that Tribes can access the life-saving supplies and resources they need during this public health crisis. This legislation will help to provide much-needed relief for Indian Country and help to keep Native communities safe and prepared,” said Congresswoman Davids. 

“We are all in this together. As we work to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that Tribal Nations and IHS have the resources necessary to protect their communities and save lives,” said Congresswoman Horn. “That means securing essential equipment and medical supplies that are needed to respond to this public health crisis. I will continue pushing Congress and the Trump Administration to provide Native communities with critical support and meaningful engagement during this crisis.”

“Indian Health Service, Tribal, and urban Indian health facilities serve some of our most vulnerable populations but are among the most under-resourced in the country. That can have deadly results during a public health crisis like the one we are facing now,” said Congressman Gallego. “We must immediately ensure that Indian Country has access to the critical medical supplies and resources from the Strategic National Stockpile to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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