Navajo vice president advises the Indian Health Service on Navajo health issues

WASHINGTON—Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez participated in a two-day quarterly meeting of the Indian Health Service (IHS) Self-Governance Tribal Advisory Committee where he advised the IHS on issues such as native youth suicide, the need for clean and safe drinking water and called on IHS to support the Navajo Nation’s work toward the creation of a Navajo Medicaid Agency.

In his introductory remarks, the vice president informed the IHS and tribal officials in attendance of one of the most pressing issues facing the nation – youth suicide. He noted there have been seven suicides by Navajo youth near the San Juan River since the recent Gold King Mine spill on August 5.

The vice president stated that suicide has reached epidemic proportions within the Navajo Nation. He asked the IHS to thank Secretary Sylvia Burwell for raising this to the highest levels within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but urged that it be brought to the White House Council on Native American Affairs so that all the necessary departments of involved in bringing an end to native youth suicide.

The vice president also called for IHS to meet the health needs of the Navajo people through drilling new wells to provide safe drinking water and to provide funds to rehabilitate the water damaged surgery suite at the Gallup Indian Medical Center in Gallup, New Mexico.

Vice President Nez reiterated the Navajo Nation’s call to IHS to redirect unused IHS fiscal 2015 funds so that critical renovation work can be initiated to maintain the safety and well-being of surgery patients at GIMC.

In closing, Vice President Nez told everyone present that the Navajo Nation is embarking on a new path in self-determination and self-governance.

“As a sovereign nation, the Navajo Nation is moving toward its goal of running its own Medicaid agency. As many of you know, the Navajo Nation is straddled between three states. Our people deserve the same benefits and access to quality health care regardless of what state they live in and a Navajo-run Medicaid Agency would provide that. As such, the Navajo Medicaid Agency has become a top priority of the Begaye-Nez Administration and I ask IHS to support us in our endeavor,” said Vice President Nez.

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