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Jon Tester: Bill protects Special Diabetes Program for Indians

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, at a May 21, 2014, hearing. Photo from Flickr

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, explains why he introduced S.2830, a bill to provide permanent funding for the Special Diabetes Program for Indians:
In 1997, Congress established the Special Diabetes Program for Indians to help combat this health epidemic in Indian Country. The program has been reauthorized each year since 2008 at $150 million, but there have been unacceptable funding delays. This bill permanently reauthorizes the program.

We have already seen this program’s positive impact on Native populations. Between 1999 and 2006, the rate of end-stage renal disease due to diabetes fell by 28 percent. That was a more significant drop than any other ethnic group over the same time period. We must work to ensure such progress can continue without interruption from folks in Washington.

The Indian Family Health Clinic in Great Falls, Montana receives vital funding from the Program. They’ve developed creative solutions to barriers to health care including a "kiosk" in the clinic with a computer for patients to use to apply for Medicare and Medicaid, download forms, and register as new patients and for diabetes classes.

One of the best steps Congress can take is provide tribes and tribal organizations with the tools that they need to help prevent the spread of diabetes. More than 80 percent of grant programs within the Special Diabetes Program for Indians are used to implement health strategies to prevent diabetes in Native youths. And with Native children and young adults ages 10 to 19 nine times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than any other race, we know more needs to be done.

This program has served the Native population well, but it can’t be subject to the constant threat of budget cuts or elimination.

Get the Story:
Sen. Jon Tester: Fighting the Plague of Diabetes in Indian Country (Indian Country Today 9/20)

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