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July 2, 2020
Contact: HHS Press Office
[email protected]

Indian Health Service Announces National Expansion of the Community Health Aide Program

The Indian Health Service is announcing the national expansion of the Community Health Aide Program. The program provides education and training of tribal community health providers to increase access to quality health care, health promotion and disease prevention services.

As an expansion of the Alaska Community Health Aide Program, the national CHAP will be consistent with the Alaska model and will foster innovative service delivery for the IHS by augmenting the existing workforce with mid-level paraprofessionals, utilizing culturally competent providers, and providing workforce development opportunities for locally developed staff.

"Expanding the CHAP reflects the Indian Health Service's commitment to building on effective programs and listening to tribal consultation," said HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. "Under President Trump, HHS has made it a priority to tackle health disparities and address social risk factors that may affect health. Secretary Azar and I have heard firsthand how community health aides have helped improve health in Alaska Native communities, and we look forward to seeing the results of expanding this program to the lower 48."

"Through this expansion to create a national CHAP, the IHS aims to provide culturally appropriate health care services through recruiting, developing, and retaining a dedicated, competent, and caring workforce," said IHS Director Rear Adm. Michael D. Weahkee. "The CHAP model increases access to care by bringing health care closer to our patients. Traditionally, patients are brought to a health care facility, and the CHAP illustrates that health care can be delivered to the patient in their environment."

The IHS initiated tribal consultation in 2016 to seek input on the potential expansion to create a national CHAP. In February 2018, the IHS convened a CHAP Tribal Advisory Group to ensure that the questions and concerns from tribes, tribal organizations and urban Indian organizations across the country were being adequately represented. To better understand the needs of American Indian and Alaska Native communities prior to CHAP expansion, the IHS participated in numerous listening sessions, focus groups, and planning meetings.

Leveraging innovative workforce models that prioritize direct health care, CHAP is vital to rural and remote communities across Indian Country as the need for access to care in primary, dental, and behavioral health increases. Federal law requires all health aides to be certified by the IHS to provide services under a CHAP. As implementation proceeds, the CHAP must be sufficiently flexible to allow the IHS and tribes to tailor resources to the specific local, mental, physical, and cultural needs of the community and operate within site specific limitations in technology, resources, and facilities.

The IHS is taking a phased implementation approach, starting with tribal consultation on $5 million in funding from Fiscal Year 2020 to support key components. These include establishing certification boards at the IHS Area and national levels to begin certifying providers in the lower 48, increasing community education on the role of CHAP across Indian Country, investing into training within tribal communities, and providing additional support to tribally-operated programs.

The Alaska CHAP was established in 1968 to provide a broad range of primary care services to residents of remote areas that would otherwise not have access to consistent medical care. Today in Alaska, more than 50,000 patients in remote villages throughout the state are treated by village-based health aides.

The policy may be accessed through the Indian Health Manual under Circular 20-06. For more background on the CHAP expansion, visit https://www.ihs.gov/chap/.

The IHS, an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 2.6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who belong to 574 federally recognized tribes in 37 states. Follow the agency via social media on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other news materials are available at https://www.hhs.gov/news.
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Last revised: July 2, 2020

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