Smith demands action to provide health services to underserved populations

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WASHINGTON (KEYC) — U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) wrote a letter to government officials on Friday in which she demanded accessible, comprehensive and culturally competent mental health care and related services for Native American and Alaska Native youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her letter to federal education and health official, Smith and some of her Senate colleagues said Native American and Alaska Native youths may have a difficult time in accessing care during the COVID-19 pandemic because these populations already faced mental and behavioral health challenges before the pandemic began.

Smith and her colleagues also emphasized that immediate action must be taken to provide for these populations because many Native American and Alaska Native youth seek mental health care at school.

“We must act quickly to ensure that Tribes, Native communities, and the schools serving Native students – whether at the early childhood, primary, secondary, or postsecondary level – have the resources they need to address the unique mental and behavioral health challenges facing AI/AN youth,” Smith and her colleagues wrote. “Congress and federal agencies need to support creative solutions to address disparities in access to care and ensure the COVID-19 pandemic does not further aggravate these inequities.”

Smith’s letter was also signed by Sens. om Udall (D-N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernard Sanders (D-Vt.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

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