WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Indian health care is at a crisis point according to Senator Mike Rounds. The South Dakota Republican continues his calls for an assessment as to where the Indian Health Service (IHS), a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services, has gone wrong so that tribes in his state and across the country can be better served.
Dave Flute, chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe, says they've seen the problems of the IHS go on for decades.
“This has been going on for decades,” said Dave Flute, Chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe in South Dakota.
After years of questioning Native American health care services, Flute wants answers. He says the IHS has been neglecting tribes in his region.
“I think part of that stems from coordination, consultation, and really listening to the tribes and what our tribal needs are,” said Flute.
He says he wants to know why the IHS has been taking money from tribes in the Great Plains Region and moving it to other tribes. He says his tribe has drug and mental health problems that need addressing, but the resources aren’t there.
“There needs to be better transparency in the Indian Health Service. There needs to be better accountability,” said Flute.
Flute’s Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) is pushing legislation that calls for an independent audit of the IHS. He thinks an outside opinion can best lead the government to work with tribes and fix these problems.
“We’ll get the information and when we’re done with it, we will make IHS a better system than what it is today,” said Rounds.
In a hearing, an IHS representative testified that their internal audits have been sufficient and allow them to proactively resolve problems as they are identified. She also said they meet the standards for financial reporting. Rounds says he hopes his legislation moves along quickly to get an objective point of view.
“Whether IHS wants the assessment done or not, I think we’re moving in the right direction,” said Rounds.
Rounds’ legislation currently sits in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.