U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) introduced legislation on Wednesday to reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) for an additional five years and increase funding to $200 million per year. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) are original cosponsors of the bill.

According to the CDC, American Indians and Alaska Natives have a greater chance of having type 2 diabetes than any other population. For nearly 2 out of 3 Native Americans who have kidney failure, diabetes is the primary factor. 

“Diabetes continues to devastate Native American communities, leading to other serious health conditions,” said McSally. “SDPI has proved to be successful in curbing the rate of diabetes in native communities and ensuring Native Americans have access to the care they need in order to stay healthy. I urge the Senate to swiftly reauthorize this important program.”

“The Special Diabetes Program for Indians is saving lives in Alaska and provides a strong return on federal investment. By supporting prevention and treatment services and promoting healthy and active lifestyles, we are truly making a difference. The program has become the government’s most effective initiative to combat diabetes,” Senator Murkowski said. "We know that diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for a more serious COVID-19 illness, which makes extending the SDPI authorization especially critical right now.”

Text of the bill can be found HERE.

Support for the reauthorization of SDPI

Stephen Roe Lewis, Governor of the Gila River Indian Community: “The Gila River Indian Community has the highest rates of type II diabetes in the world and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians has been the most effective federal program to aid the tribe in putting the programmatic and educational tools in place to reverse this statistic.  This legislation will increase funding for this much needed program and provide the certainty needed to ensure this highly effective program can continue without interruption.”

Chairman Peter Yucupicio of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe: “The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how important it is to address underlying health conditions like diabetes that disproportionately affect Native Americans. The special diabetes program for Indians is an important tool for tribal governments to provide this much-needed care. We appreciate the leadership of Senator McSally in ensuring there is long-term stability to this program.”

Chairman Norris of the Tohono O’odham Nation: “The Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) has played a critical role in managing and reducing diabetes on the Tohono O’odham Nation and for tribes across the United States, whose members are disproportionately impacted by the disease. On the Nation, SDPI funds are used for award-winning exercise and education programs that would otherwise not be available.  Utilizing traditional desert foods, these programs have also been introduced into our school systems with very positive reductions in childhood obesity rates.  On behalf of the Nation, thank you Senator McSally and Senator Sinema for your leadership in working to reauthorize SDPI, a vital public health program that we should all be working together to promote in a bipartisan way.”

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez: “The Special Diabetes Program for Indians is critical in our fight against diabetes and viruses such as COVID-19. If we want our people to be stronger and able to prevent and fight off viruses then we need our people to eat healthy foods and build their immune system. We extend our appreciation and gratitude to Senator McSally, Senator Sinema, and Senator Murkowski for introducing this important bill. This five year, $200 million per year extension of SDPI is the much-needed reauthorization to this incredibly successful program. Allowing the funds to be awarded to tribes through grants pursuant to contracts and compacts will allow our programs to fully service our Navajo people.” 

Navajo Nation Speaker Seth Damon: “Without the support of Senator Martha McSally’s bill to re-authorize the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, Native American Tribal Nations face the loss of a vital resource in combating the onset of diabetes and all of its complications,” said 24th Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon. “Diabetes did not exist among the Navajo People before the modern era, and it has been that vision that has driven the efforts of Navajo leaders and our federal partners to work together for more than 20 years to end diabetes on the Navajo Nation. Our journey towards wellness and a healthy way of life will take the continuing support of our federal partners.”

Navajo Nation Chairman Health, Education and Human Services Committee of the Navajo Nation Daniel Tso: “On behalf on the Health, Education and Human Services Committee of the Navajo Nation Council, we are greatly pleased by the proposed increase in the annual appropriations that this reauthorization will tender. The Health of our Navajo people is of prime importance. In the cases of diabetes, it is a lifelong journey to stay as well as possible."

Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community President Martin Harvier: “The Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community encourages Congress to move swiftly in adopting this critical legislation.  Indian Country needs the certainty this bill will provide to a program that has saved many lives over the years. We are thankful for the leadership senators McSally and Sinema have demonstrated in bringing this bill forward and our Community stands ready to support their efforts.”

National Indian Health Board: “The National Indian Health Board strongly supports Senator McSally's bill to reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program for Indians with a guarantee of five years of funding at an increase to $200 million a year. Reauthorizing SDPI gives Tribal communities the certainty they need to make long-term decisions and plan effectively for diabetes prevention and treatment, which is critically needed to effectively respond to COVID-19. We urge Congress to reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program for Indians as part of the next round of COVID-19 response packages. The program is saving lives."

The National Council of Urban Indian Health said: “Thank you to Senators McSally and Murkowski for their continued leadership in helping Indian Country during an essential time. No one should have to choose to between paying for their insulin or paying their rent. Thankfully the Special Diabetes Program for Indians is ensuring access to health care. The vital services provided by the SDPI are invaluable and have proven success in decreasing diabetes prevalence in the American Indian/Alaska Native populations that are most susceptible. As our nation battles a pandemic exacerbated by diabetes, it is imperative that the Special Diabetes Program for Indians be reauthorized for the long-term to ensure better outcomes for the patients and families who depend on this critical care.”

Background

The Special Diabetes Programs for Indians Reauthorization Act of 2020

  • Reauthorizes funding for the SDPI for 5 years, from fiscal years 2021 through 2025.
  • Provides an increase in funding from $150 million to $200 million per year.
  • Allows tribal awardees to have the option to receive SDPI funds through self-governance contracts, cooperative agreements, or compact under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA). 

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