Murkowski’s Interior Chairmanship Yields Health and Wellness Initiatives for Alaska

Suicide Prevention, Tools to Combat Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse Contained in Appropriations Bill

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski announced provisions in her Fiscal Year 2017 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act that will help combat domestic violence, substance abuse, and suicide through programs in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Indian Health Service (IHS). The Subcommittee approved the bill, which will be considered by the full Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

“The heart-wrenching truth is that many Alaskans struggle with these issues and we simply cannot turn a blind eye them. My bill provides Alaska Natives with needed tools and support so they do not turn to substance abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, or suicide as their only option. And it does so in a holistic manner – tying in their culture and traditions,” said Senator Murkowski. “We must do what we can at the federal, state, and local level to end the scourge of abuse, violence, and suicide within our Native communities.”

Zero Suicide Initiative: Increases funding for an IHS program aimed at preventing suicide by providing tools and support for organizations with patients receiving care. The initiative’s main belief is that suicide deaths for people receiving care are entirely preventable. In December 2015 the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium received training from the Zero Suicide program, providing tools and instructions for healthcare staff who treat and support suicidal patients.

Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative: Supports an IHS initiative that promotes culturally appropriate prevention and treatment approaches to domestic and sexual violence from a community-driven context. This includes funding projects that provide victim advocacy, intervention, case coordination, policy development, community response teams, sexual assault examiner programs, and community and school education programs. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation, Chugachmiut, Copper River Native Association, Kodiak Area Native Association, Maniilaq Association, Norton Sound Health Corporation, Southcentral Foundation, and Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium all receive funds through this initiative to continue efforts in addressing domestic violence and sexual assault in their communities.

Alcohol and Substance Abuse: Provides an increase to IHS alcohol and substance abuse prevention programs to focus on tribal youth and the incorporation of more holistic healthcare models to improve outcomes. Programs within tribal communities to combat alcohol and substance abuse include inpatient and outpatient treatment, and rehabilitation services in both urban and rural settings. 

Behavioral Health: Supports IHS programs to address issues such as substance use disorders, mental health disorders, suicide, violence, and behavior-related chronic diseases among American Indians and Alaska Natives. Similar to the NUKA model at Southcentral Foundation, the program is a comprehensive system of care, which encourages community support and strong collaborative relationships with other agencies.

Tiwahe Initiative: Provides an increase for the Tiwahe initiative, which is a pilot program designed to address the overall tribal needs of a community through a comprehensive approach. Important program increases will be used to help enhance social services and family programs as well as job training and public safety systems.

Tribal Court Funding: Provides tribal court funding to Public Law 280 states, such as Alaska, for the second consecutive year. For tribes in these states, the lack of resources available for tribal courts has undermined the ability to develop and maintain an adequate law enforcement and judicial system. The FY2016 Omnibus bill included funding for the first time to address the needs of PL 280 states, and this bill devotes funding to help tribal communities design and develop court systems.

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee controls funding levels for federal agencies and departments such as the Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Forest Service (FS), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and Indian Health Service (IHS). Murkowski, as Chairman, is able to write the Senate’s annual appropriations bill for the Subcommittee. 

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska