U.S. Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota introduced a bill – along with a number of other members of the U.S. Senate – to help tribal communities in Minnesota and across the country access the resources they need to support people who are struggling with mental health issues or substance use disorders.

Tribal communities have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.

According to a leading health agency, American Indians and Alaska Natives experience some of the highest drug overdose death rates.

However, many tribal communities don’t have the resources they need to tackle this public health crisis.

The Native Behavioral Health Access Improvement Act would create a behavioral health program to help tribes develop solutions that include culturally-appropriate efforts aimed at prevention, treatment and recovery.

Sen. Smith’s bill would set up the Special Behavioral Health Program for Indians – the SBHPI– which is modeled after the successful special diabetes program.

“Native communities have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, yet too many aren’t able to access the behavioral health services necessary to tackle these challenges,” said Smith, a member of the Senate health and Indian affairs committees. “Tribes need to be able to access the resources necessary to address the opioid crisis and other mental health and substance use crises.” 

The act would create a Special Behavioral Health Program for Indians to:

• Allow tribes to develop solutions that incorporate traditional and cultural practices into evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery.

• Establish that grant reporting standards be developed in consultation with tribes and provide tribes with technical assistance needed to develop programs and meet grant requirements.