Indian Health Service 2016 Annual California Tribal Consultation: “Can You Hear Us Now?”

By: Natalie Mueller | Associate |
Gabriela Rios | Law Clerk |
Theodore J. Griswold | Partner |

Last week the California Area Office for the Indian Health Service (IHS) held its annual Tribal Consultation Conference at the Viejas Casino & Resort. It brought together IHS California Area Staff and Tribal Leaders from across California. The consultation provided Tribal Leaders a forum to voice their concerns, convey their priorities, and to make budget recommendations for the coming year. For more information on IHS Tribal Consultation Policy click here.

The final day of the conference featured a three-hour listening session that gave Tribal Leaders an opportunity to directly express their concerns and priorities to California Area Indian Health Service Staff.  Those who spoke noted the lack of representation from the national Headquarter Office and how that weakened the consultation process with the Tribal Leaders.

The main concern of Tribal Leaders was funding.  Many tribal health programs such as diabetes programs and behavioral health services are significantly underfunded, despite the overwhelming need for such programs.  In addition, tribes in California are concerned that they will be unable to obtain sufficient funding to build much needed health facilities or to maintain their current ones. Technology was also a large concern, with Tribal Leaders describing how the technology programs offered and sponsored by IHS are not well-suited to handle the new ICD-10 requirements.

With the exception of the final day, many of the Tribal Leaders expressed their frustration that meaningful consultation was not taking place; rather Tribal Leaders were being updated on current and upcoming programs, but were not provided opportunities to provide input.

Many also expressed frustration that California, with one of the largest tribal populations, is receiving less IHS funding than other states. The takeaway seemed to be that tribes in California need to come together, present a united front to Congress, and demand the funding necessary to support California tribal health programs and facilities in their communities.

muellerNatalie is a member of Procopio’s Health Care practice group. She regularly assists Native American health clinics, hospitals, and medical groups with quality oversight compliance and governance. Natalie also advises and represents health care entities throughout the peer review and judicial review hearing process.

Ted GriswoldTed is head of the Procopio Native American Law Practice Group working with Native American tribal governments and is the primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at and 619.515.3277.

Gabriela is a citizen of the Cahuilla Band of Indians and an attorney in Procopio’s Native American Law Practice Group. She graduated from the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona in 2015 and was recently admitted the State Bar of California.