The heroism of frontline healthcare and social service workers in Indian Country has been especially noteworthy. I ask that you, as leaders in your tribes, pass along a personal expression of gratitude from Secretary Azar and me. Those on the frontlines in Indian Country are doing courageous, lifesaving work, and all of America is grateful for it
Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining this call today. Each meeting of the STAC, however we conduct it, is a key listening opportunity and an importance chance to strengthen the government-to-government relationship the federal government has with tribes.
As many of you know, the Trump Administration has committed to holding one STAC meeting in Indian Country each year, and we have now had three such meetings. Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced us to postpone holding such a meeting for the time being, but we are looking forward to holding another STAC in tribal country when we can.
Today, I want to mention a couple points about the battle against COVID-19 in Indian Country: first, how lessons from existing tribal work are being applied during the pandemic, and then the broad range of ways we've been working at HHS to help tribes respond.
The tribal communities I've had the chance to visit, including through STAC trips, have offered many opportunities to expand my understanding of the triumphs and challenges of Indian Country. I've visited a number of different tribal programs, including those with a more urban focus, such as Phoenix or Minneapolis, and those with a more rural focus, including in New Mexico, South Dakota, and Alaska.
For instance, when I visited the IHS Pine Ridge Service Unit, the primary source of healthcare for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, I saw a lot of innovations in using telehealth to overcome some obstacles associated with rural healthcare.
As someone who grew up up in a rural community and received services from a rural hospital, who understands the challenges it involves, I was happy to see this creative work going on.
I know that this experience with telehealth, which I also saw in even more remote and rural areas, including Alaska, is helping to continue care safely at IHS facilities during the pandemic. During my time in Alaska, I also saw the Community Health Aide Program at work, and learned about the successes and positive impacts it has had on the Alaska Native community. That was a reminder of how essential it is to have many different community members involved in promoting the health and well-being of tribal communities.
Recognizing holistic needs and the broad set of challenges we face has been essential to the COVID-19 response, which I want to describe briefly.
First, over the past couple weeks, we have made significant disbursements of funds to the Indian healthcare system, including $500 million from the provider relief fund created by Congress. The original plan was for a $400 million disbursement from that fund, but discussions with tribes and across IHS and the administration led Admiral Weahkee and me to realize that this number needed to increase, to $500 million.
We've also sent $750 million to support public health activities like testing and contact tracing. HRSA has sent supplemental funds to 35 Tribal and Urban Indian health centers for testing and care, and SAMHSA has announced the distribution of over $22 million to tribal organizations to address the mental health impacts of the pandemic.
The healthcare response is also about more than just funding: IHS has expanded its work on telehealth, helping to reduce risks for patients and providers while also providing frontline emergency professionals with access to critical care consultation in places where service has traditionally been very difficult to access.
We've also provided direct support for the public health efforts on the ground. CDC, at the invitation of tribes, has teams deployed to assist tribes with response efforts including data collection and analysis, incident command structures, increasing access to safe water, community mitigation, testing and contact tracing. CDC has also put out specific guidance around mitigating the spread of the virus for tribal communities.
We've put a particular focus in all of our testing work on vulnerable communities, including tribal communities. That includes IHS's distribution of 250 rapid Abbott testing machines to federal and tribal healthcare facilities. Through these efforts, IHS testing has increased 10-fold over since April 1, and this testing data is easily available on the IHS website.
Lastly, we recognize that you're facing more than just healthcare challenges. The Administration for Children and Families has awarded more than $96 million in supplemental funding to all tribal child care grantees. The Administration for Community Living has distributed $30 million for nutrition and supportive services to elders from the 282 American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian organizations that receive grants from ACL.
This has been a comprehensive response, expanding and adjusting the work we do in cooperation with tribal communities on every front during this crisis.
As I've said to you before, working on tribal issues has been a highlight of my time so far as Deputy Secretary. Indian Country now faces tremendous challenges from COVID-19, but I have been inspired by the work of tribal communities in their response.
The heroism of frontline healthcare and social service workers in Indian Country has been especially noteworthy. I ask that you, as leaders in your tribes, pass along a personal expression of gratitude from Secretary Azar and me. Those on the frontlines in Indian Country are doing courageous, lifesaving work, and all of America is grateful for it.
Finally, I want to note that I look forward to ongoing budget consultations this year with the tribes and with the STAC. Especially as we deal with the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, your input is especially important.
Thank you again for having me speak with you all today, thank you for your dedication to strengthening our government-to-government relationship, and I look forward to our ongoing discussion.