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Bingaman asks HHS secretary to help urban Indians

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) asked new Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt on Wednesday to fund an urban Indian health center that needs $5 million to stay open.

In a letter, Bingaman said the Albuquerque Indian Health Center will be forced to cut most of its services without the extra money. "It is important for the Department of Health to understand and acknowledge that urban Indians throughout the country are falling through the cracks and that urban Indian clinics are being grossly underfunded," he wrote.

Bingaman and Sen. Pete Domenici (R) had earlier asked the Indian Health Service to find money for the center. But last week, IHS Director Dr. Charles Grim rejected the request, prompting the layoffs of 40 employees. Grim said there wasn't enough money to go around.

The center, which already reduced services, will have to close its urgent care clinic within a matter of months due to the shortfall. "If the Albuquerque Indian Health Center is forced to shut down for lack of funding, we will be failing to meet our trust responsibility," Bingaman said yesterday.

Relevant Links:
Indian Health Service -

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