Indian Health Service Partners with United States Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education to Increase Access to Behavioral Health Services for Native Youth

Native American youth will benefit from the services

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service (IHS) and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) entered into an Interagency Agreement today that will increase access to mental and behavioral health services for students attending BIE schools and youth detained in BIA Office of Justice Services (OJS) facilities.

“The Indian Health Service is dedicated to addressing behavioral health issues across Indian Country with a special focus on Native youth,” said IHS Principal Deputy Director Mary L. Smith. “This Agreement is another major step we have taken to increase access to quality health care in tribal communities. This is a great partnership and key to caring for our Native youth.”

“In keeping with President Obama’s Generation Indigenous initiative to improve opportunities for Native youth and the BIA’s Tiwahe initiative to strengthen Native families, this interagency agreement will enable the BIA and BIE to work collaboratively with IHS to bring much-needed behavioral health resources to Native youth,” said Lawrence S. “Larry” Roberts, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior. “I want to thank IHS for working with us to bring these resources to our educational and juvenile detention facilities. The services will be of immense help to our students and youth detainees and their families.”

The Agreements allows each agency to establish local partnerships through Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) between IHS federally operated mental health programs, BIE-operated elementary and secondary schools and BIA OJS-operated juvenile detention centers to provide mental health assessment and counseling services, which includes telebehavioral health services. In the first year of this agreement, more than 25 schools could access these services.

Under this 10-year Agreement, behavioral health services will be offered at BIE schools and OJS facilities. Tribes, tribally controlled schools or detention facilities may enter into a MOA with the three agencies for these services; however, tribal participation is completely voluntary.

A similar partnership already exists with the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Since November 2015, nine schools and one detention center on the Pine Ridge Reservation initiated agreements for behavioral health services. This Agreement builds on the other interagency efforts between IHS and BIA, including a December 2015 partnership to equip BIA law enforcement officers with naloxone for responding to drug overdoses in tribal communities.

Launched by President Obama in December 2014, Generation Indigenous, also known as Gen-I, is a Native youth initiative focused on removing the barriers that stand between Native youth and their opportunities to succeed. This initiative takes a comprehensive, culturally appropriate approach to help improve the lives and opportunities for Native youth. Earlier this year, IHS announced more than $7 million in Generation Indigenous behavioral health funding for Tribes, Tribal organizations and other programs.

The Agreements allows each agency to establish local partnerships through Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) between IHS federally operated mental health programs, BIE-operated elementary and secondary schools and BIA OJS-operated juvenile detention centers to provide mental health assessment and counseling services, which includes telebehavioral health services. In the first year of this agreement, more than 25 schools could access these services.

Under this 10-year Agreement, behavioral health services will be offered at BIE schools and OJS facilities. Tribes, tribally controlled schools or detention facilities may enter into a MOA with the three agencies for these services; however, tribal participation is completely voluntary.