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Healthy living in northwest Indian country

Agreement will speed determination of food, Medicaid eligibility

KINGSTON, Wash. – Port Gamble S’Klallam and the state Department of Social and Health Services have signed a historic agreement allowing the tribal government to make Medicaid and food program eligibility decisions for tribal families.

Tribal Chairman Ron Charles said it’s the first such agreement among Medicaid or food programs in the United States, and called it a “milestone regarding eligibility determinations.” Interim DSHS Secretary Stan Marshburn said the success of the agreement will pave the way for other tribal governments across the state to expand their programs and services.

The agreement was signed May 11 in the Port Gamble S’Klallam Longhouse in a ceremony that included traditional songs, dances and several speakers.

In the past, the tribe has had to channel eligibility decisions through a DSHS branch office, even though it involved duplication of tribal Social Services efforts. Allowing the tribe to use its own resources made more sense, provided the federal rules could be waived, officials said.

In August, the state Medicaid program and the Suquamish Nation signed a landmark health care agreement that allows tribal youth direct access to state-managed Medicaid-linked mental health services. Specifically, the agreement gives Suquamish easier access to the Medicaid-funded Children’s Long-Term Inpatient Program.

Funds support improved access to breast health care

SEATTLE – The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to improve the breast health of American Indian and Alaska Native women in the greater Seattle area.

The foundation awarded $2.3 million in grants to area agencies and nonprofits. Some of the funding went to:

• Honoring Women’s Health Project: This project of Family Planning of Clallam County will reach 1,300 medically underserved women with breast health education and provide access to breast cancer screening to about 430 women.

• Native Women’s Wellness Program: This program of the South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency provides breast health outreach and education, screening and support activities to women in rural tribal communities who are rarely, or have never been, screened for breast cancer. The project primarily serves women living on or near the Chehalis, Nisqually, Shoalwater Bay, Skykomish, Squaxin Island and Quinault reservations. The program will reach more than 2,000 women.

• Senior Outreach Breast Health Education and Screening Project: This project of King County Senior Services will educate older American Indian women about the importance of mammography screening. Mobile mammography screenings will serve 325 women.

• Breast Cancer Navigator Program: This program of the Franciscan Foundation pairs women with “navigators” who share their culture. These navigators educate women about breast cancer and the need for screening, and help them receive mammograms. Women diagnosed with breast cancer receive one-on-one help connecting with culturally competent treatment and emotional support. The program will serve more than 3,000 women.

Chehalis teens win award at anti-drug forum

CHEHALIS, Wash. – A Chehalis teen group won an award for “Presentation Style/Professionalism” at the Washington Prevention Youth Spring Forum, April 30 at the Chehalis-owned Great Wolf Lodge.

“Teens at Chehalis Tribe Against Alcohol Drugs Tobacco: Choice and Consequences” was one of 34 teams competing at the forum and was one of five category winners.

At the forum, the teens wowed mentors and peers with clever marketing campaigns and peer support programs they developed, aimed at preventing alcohol and drug abuse, violence and other destructive behaviors among teens.

State Attorney General Rob McKenna, whose office funded the forum with proceeds from consumer protection settlements with drug companies, said the teens’ programs – which use music, video and other technology – “serve as models that can be replicated throughout the state.”

In one presentation, a student did a one-man show about his mother’s struggle with prescription drug addiction. In another presentation, a group of students told of a peer mentor program they started that matches at-risk younger students with high school juniors and seniors who participate with them in safe activities such as bowling, movies and outdoor fun.

Money available for home repairs in rural areas

SEATTLE – The U.S. Agriculture Department is accepting grant applications from local and tribal governments and nonprofit agencies to help low and very low income rural residents repair their homes.

Housing Preservation Grants are provided to local and tribal governments, public agencies and nonprofit and faith-based organizations. They distribute grants to homeowners or owners of multi-family rental properties or cooperative dwellings that rent to low and very low income people.

Grants can be used to weatherize and repair existing structures, install or improve plumbing or provide access to people with disabilities. Improvements include insulation, weather stripping, seals around doors and windows, energy-saving shower heads and more efficient light bulbs.

The USDA may award up to $10 million in competitive grants. The grants are part of USDA Rural Development’s annual budget and are not funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Applications are due by the close of business July 10. Applications may be accessed electronically.

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at