America’s addiction and mental health care crisis has been building for decades—due to decades of neglect by political leaders in Washington. Today, I’m proposing a new approach that tackles this crisis with the urgency and care it deserves:

Posted by Pete Buttigieg on Friday, August 23, 2019
Pete Buttigieg: America’s addiction and mental health care crisis has been building for decades

Pete Buttigieg touts health care plans as benefit for Indian Country

A 2020 Democratic candidate for president who didn’t attend a historic forum this week in Iowa that addressed Native American issues said Friday that his plans to improve mental health care and fight the opioid crisis would also benefit Indian Country.

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said his plans include: penalizing insurance companies that fail to cover the costs of mental health care and addiction treatment at the same levels as medical care; creating a $10 billion-a-year grant program to fund communities with higher rates of mental illness and addiction; decriminalizing mental illness and addiction through jail diversion, treatment and re-entry programs; and requiring every school to teach Mental Health First Aid courses.

“For years, politicians in Washington have claimed to prioritize mental health care while slashing funding for treatment and ignoring America’s growing addiction and mental health crisis,” Buttigieg said of his platform. “That neglect must end. Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal.”

A spokeswoman for Buttigieg said the candidate’s health care platform also includes language that specifically mentions Native people, including a commitment to ensure continued and adequate funding for the Indian Health Service and supporting reauthorization of the Special Diabetes Program for Indians.

“Finally, we will recognize IHS and tribally-managed health departments as equal partners in our efforts to improve the nation’s public health infrastructure,” his health plan reads.

On Monday and Tuesday, 10 Democratic candidates for president and 1 Independent candidate participated in the first ever Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa, where they presented their plans for Indian Country and answered questions from tribal leaders and advocates.

The 10 Democratic candidates were: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts; Amy Klobuchar, the U.S. Senator from Minnesota; Bernie Sanders, the U.S. Senator from Vermont; best-selling author Marianne Williamson; Steve Bullock, the governor of Montana; Julián Castro, a former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; John Delaney, a former U.S. Congressman from Maryland; Kamala Harris, the U.S. Senator from California; and Joe Sestak, a former U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania

Independent candidate Mark Charles, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, also took part in the forum.

Marisol Samayoa, deputy national press secretary for his campaign, said a scheduling conflict prevented Buttigieg from attending the forum this week.

“However, that was not going to be the first time or only time our team would have engaged with Native American voters,” she said.

Buttigieg’s team has already met with Meskwaki Nation leaders, including a visit to the tribe’s powwow earlier in August. He also participated in a roundtable with tribal leaders during the recent Democratic party debates in Michigan.

Unlike at least two of the Democratic candidates, including Warren and Castro, Buttigieg doesn’t have a comprehensive plan focused on Native issues. But Samayoa said her candidate plans to continue learning about Native issues.

“This is an ongoing conversation with the Native American community, and we look forward to continue engaging with Native American voters throughout the course of the campaign,” she said.

Despite Buttigieg's lack of a comprehensive plan, the White House hopeful has direct experience in a number of tribal issues. He helped make history by welcoming the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians back to its homelands in South Bend, Indiana.

Buttigieg's stance is notable because local governments often oppose attempts to tribes to acquire trust lands. As mayor, he instead helped negotiate and implement a government-to-government agreement with the Pokagon Band, one that has resulted in significant economic and social benefits for his community.

"These funds will help lift up our community’s children and families across all neighborhoods," Buttigieg said in January of the tribe's latest contribution to South Bend.

His presidential campaign site, however, doesn't mention his positive tribal record. The "Issues" page doesn't offer many details about Native Americans, except for a pledge to "protect voting rights on tribal lands" and to "support self-determination of Indigenous populations." His "Securing a Healthy Future for Rural America" plan is the one that expresses support for the IHS and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians.

Thumbnail photo of veterans from the Winnebago Tribe and members of American Legion Post 363 La Mere Greencrow Rice act as the Color Guard for the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa, on August 19, 2019, by Ho-Chunk Inc

Thank you to everyone who participated, attended and helped organize this historic event. Here is a collection of photos from the past two days.

Posted by Ho-Chunk, Inc. on Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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