Urban Indians hurt by IHS policy in Montana

Urban Indians in Montana are finding it difficult or even impossible to obtain prescription drugs under a new Indian Health Service policy.

Tribal members who lived in Billings were able to pick up their prescriptions at the Indian Health Board. But IHS adopted a new policy that requires them to go to the Crow-Northern Cheyenne Hospital on the Crow Reservation.

For some, that means they will have to go without. Kim Brown holds down two jobs and can't make the three-hour round trip to the reservation unless the misses a substantial amount of work.

Marjorie Bear Don't Walk, the executive director of the Billings clinic, said many urban Indians are suffering. "There are some who are just desperate for their medication and have to choose between their jobs and their medicine," she told The Billings Gazette.

IHS made the change due to concerns over liability and funding. The agency also wants more people to go to the reservation hospital.

"I think it's a 1950s bureaucratic decision that had nothing to do with patient care," Bear Don't Walk said. "They have not valued what we do here."

Get the Story:
Indians cite hardship of prescription changes (The Billings Gazette 3/20)

House Bill:
Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2007 (H.R.1328)

Relevant Documents:
Letter to President Bush | Letter to Alberto Gonzales | DOJ White Paper

Relevant Links:
Indian Health Service - http://www.ihs.gov
National Indian Health Board - http://www.nihb.org

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