Fort Hall Business Council Secretary Claudia Washakie Advocates in D.C.

Claudia Washakie in DC

May 9, 2023


Fort Hall Business Council Secretary Claudia Washakie Advocates in D.C.

Washington D.C. – Fort Hall Business Council member Claudia Washakie traveled to Washington D.C. April 17-20, 2023 with members from the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPIHB) to advocate for Tribes during the Health and Human Services Department Consultation with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). She also met one-on-one with Representatives Mike Simpson, R-ID and Representative Pramila Jayapal, D-WA.

(Photo Submitted by Claudia Washakie. Pictured Left to Right: Nick Lewis, Lummi Tribal Council and NPAIHB President; Claudia Washakie, FHBC Secretary; Mike Simpson, US Congressman; Rufus Arnold, Makah Tribal Council; and Nate Tyler, Makah Tribal Council and NPAIHB Vice-President.)

SAMHSA is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. Congress established SAMHSA in 1992 to make substance use and mental disorder information, services, and research more accessible. SAMHSA has advisory councils or committees to advance its goals. Through these councils and committees, SAMHSA draws advice from public members and professionals in the field of substance abuse and mental health. The SAMHSA budget supports programs to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

Council member Washakie testified on matters of self-governance, to end the competitive grant processes and to address tribal set-asides.  “Northwest Tribes need increased funding to address the opioid epidemic through self-governance and self-determination compacts and contracts,” stated Washakie during her testimony.  “For example, the SAMHSA Tribal Opioid Response grants are difficult to access with the many administrative requirements of applying for and receiving grant funding.”

Grants do not provide administrative flexibility to allow Tribes to establish programs that meet the needs of their own communities. Many Tribes do not have grant specialists and the grant programs make Tribes compete with each other for limited resources. 

Washakie recommended that funding must be flexible to allow Tribes the opportunity to develop culturally responsive programs.  She encouraged SAMHSA to engage Tribes to develop formulas for allocation and distribution of funds for all Tribes to receive funding. She urged SAMHSA to consider ways to provide funding for behavioral health and opioid response through contracts and compacts to address the growing opioid crisis in Indian Country.

She concluded her testimony by stating, “All SAMHSA funding, including for Garrett Lee Smith, should be increased based on costs and inflation. It has not increased for years, the $736,000 per year is not enough.”

Opening remarks were provided by Council member Nick Lewis of the Lummi Indian Business Council and Chair of the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board.  He also provided testimony on the opioid epidemic and invited SAMHSA leadership to this 2023 National Tribal Opioid Summit being held at the Tulalip Tribes in Washington on August 23-24, 2023.  The theme for the inaugural event is “Uplifting the Voices of the People: Addressing the Impacts of Fentanyl.”


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