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Office of the Tribal Liaison
Created in January 2012, the Office of the Tribal Liaison (OTL) seeks to demonstrate a respect for sovereignty and advocate for tribal nations while fostering inclusive partnerships using sound public health practices to achieve its vision - "Achieving Tribal-State Synergy for Optimal Holistic Health" for all Oklahomans.
The American Indian people residing in the State of Oklahoma are citizens of the state, and as such possess all the rights and privileges afforded by Oklahoma to its citizens. They are also the citizens of tribal nations. The OTL and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) recognize that each of the 38 federally recognized Oklahoma tribal nations has inalienable self-governance power over their citizens and territories, and possess unique culture, beliefs, value systems, and history as a sovereign nation. Thus, the OTL and OSDH commit to tribal nations participation in their decision making process as a government-to-government relationship, and embrace a belief that strengthening collaboration with tribal nations and key stakeholders at the federal, state, and community levels while leveraging resources may yield greater impact in creating a healthier and safer community for American Indian people.
The OTL pledges to produce work of the highest quality while embracing the office's core values - respect sovereignty, collaboration, equity, integrity, and accountability. Major OTL offerings include:
Oklahoma is home to 38 federally recognized tribal nations (see Tribal Jurisdictions in Oklahoma map). The 2010 United States Census defines "American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN)" as people having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment.
States with the largest AI/AN populations as of the 2010 U.S. Census, were California (723,225), Oklahoma (482,760), and Arizona (353,386). The proportion of Oklahoma's population identified as AI/AN people was 12.9 percent.
AI/AN people suffer greater health disparities than others living in Oklahoma. The top leading causes of AI/AN death are heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries and diabetes (Indian Health Service [IHS]).
It is understood that tribal members residing in the State of Oklahoma are citizens of the state and as such possess all the rights and privileges afforded by Oklahoma to its citizens. It is also understood that each Tribe has its own culture, beliefs, value system, and right to govern itself as a sovereign.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) recognizes the right of Tribal Governments to exercise sovereignty. It is beneficial for OSDH to partner with tribal governments on issues affecting all of Oklahoma as well as to ensure that services and resources are available to all eligible state citizens including tribal communities. Meaningful and timely consultation with Oklahoma Tribal Leaders will facilitate better understanding and informed decision making.
Tribal Consultation Policy
To facilitate communications between the OSDH and Indian Tribes, the OSDH will appoint and maintain a tribal liaison. The OSDH tribal liaison will ensure that all OSDH policies are available to any Indian Tribe upon request. Additionally, the OSDH tribal liaison will maintain communications with a designated representative of an Indian Tribe.
When appropriate, the OSDH may seek input from appropriate elected or appointed tribal officials before undertaking any action or policy that will, or is reasonably believed to, have the potential to affect a tribal community or its members. Further, the OSDH may, to the fullest extent possible and to the best of their ability, integrate the input generated from tribal consultation into their decision-making processes to achieve mutually acceptable solutions (see OSDH Tribal Consultation Policy).
Affordable Care Act Tribal Listening Sessions
In an effort to improve the health and wellbeing of American Indians living in Oklahoma the OSDH, in collaboration with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and representatives from Oklahoma's tribal nations, conducted six listening sessions to identify tribal health needs in the state.
Tribal listening sessions were offered in six communities from February 1 through March 1, 2013. Approximately 193 people attended the sessions, representing tribal nations, tribal serving entities, Indian Health Service and community representatives at large. Among the topics for discussion were an overview of the Affordable Care Act and the development of an Oklahoma Plan designed to reduce the number of uninsured, reduce health care costs and to improve health outcomes.
Participants were encouraged to make comments and ask questions throughout each listening session. Written comments were accepted in person during the listening the listening sessions or via e-mail or hard copy following the sessions through March 15, 2013 (see Executive Summary of Tribal Listening Sessions).
Tribal Health Facilities in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma there are three types of Indian Health facilities: facilities operated by IHS and facilities operated by Tribes and Urban Indian clinics. IHS is the federal agency responsible for providing health services to most AI/AN. There are approximately 50 American Indian health care facilities in Oklahoma (including hospitals and clinics).
Stephen Weaver, MPA
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