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Lawmakers Tour Northern Arapaho-Run Health Clinic

Northern Arapaho Tribe

Legislators learned about innovations at the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s health clinic when they gathered in Fort Washakie for a tribal relations committee meeting this week. The tribe took over its health clinic from the federal government back in 2016 in hopes of addressing health disparities they struggle with among their members.

Cheyenne Senator and Navajo tribal member Affie Ellis said health care is a serious concern for Native Americans since the life expectancy on reservations is only 49 to 51 years old, compared to the national average of 78 years old. She said, since they took it over from Indian Health Services, the Northern Arapaho have been able to hire more doctors more quickly than before.

“One way we heard that this clinic is better responding to the needs of the reservation is that they’re able to fill vacancies at a quicker pace compared to the prior system under the Indian Health Services,” said Ellis.

She said they’re also prioritizing dental care, which Ellis says is a big indicator of someone’s health.

“They’ve actually got a mobile dental clinic which they’ve employed by taking them to schools and providing access directly to kids, addressing one of their big concerns, which is transportation.”

Many people on Wind River lack access to a vehicle to take them to the doctor and Ellis says the mobile dentist helps overcome that obstacle.

The committee is also in discussions with tribal leaders about revenue sources for a Medicaid waiver for low-income residents, and will also hear from tribal leaders and agency coordinators about infrastructure needs on the reservation, and a new intertribal court system that was recently adopted.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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