WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Tom Cole (R-OK) have reintroduced the Tribal Medical Supplies Stockpile Access Act, legislation originally introduced in 2020 that would guarantee that the Indian Health Service (IHS), tribal health authorities, and urban Indian organizations have access to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), a federal repository of drugs and medical supplies that can be tapped if a public health emergency could exhaust local supplies.
Currently, IHS and tribal health authorities’ access to the SNS is limited and is not guaranteed in the SNS statute. In contrast, states’ and large municipalities’ public health authorities have ready, direct access to the SNS.
“As COVID-19 continues to devastate communities, it is critical that Indian Country has access to crucial medical supplies and equipment,” said Senator Warren. “That means ensuring IHS, tribal health authorities, and urban Indian organizations have access to the national stockpile of medical supplies. Our bill does exactly that, so IHS, tribal nations, and Native communities are empowered to confront public health crises head-on.”
“With the Omicron variant surging, it is more important than ever that Indian Country has the resources and equipment to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and treat those who are sick,” said Congressman Gallego, a member of the Congressional Native American Caucus. “That is why I’m proud to introduce the Tribal Medical Supplies Stockpile Access Act to support IHS and all of Indian Country by ensuring they have direct access to these resources in the Strategic National Stockpile. This bill is a key part of upholding our trust responsibility and will bolster tribal sovereignty as tribes navigate a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted Native people.”
“When the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services taps into our Strategic National Stockpile and distributes out to prevent shortages in communities across the nation, it is simply commonsense to include Native communities,” said Congressman Cole, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus. “As a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation that ensures tribal nations and their health organizations are able to request and receive these vital medical supplies and medications in times of national health emergencies.”
The Tribal Medical Supplies Stockpile Access Act is cosponsored by Representative Sharice Davids (D-KA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus. The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Bernard Sanders (I-VT).
The Tribal Medical Supplies Stockpile Access Act is supported by the National Indian Health Board, the National Congress of American Indians, the National Council of Urban Indian Health, United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund, Seattle Indian Health Board, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation.