WASHINGTON, D.C. [07/27/20]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) recently led her Senate colleagues in demanding accessible, comprehensive, and culturally competent mental health care and related services for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to federal education and health officials, Sen. Smith and her colleagues said that AI/AN youth already faced mental and behavioral health challenges before the pandemic, and may have an especially hard time accessing care during COVID-19. Because many AI/AN students who seek mental health care do so at school, the administration must work to find solutions to reach AI/AN students while schools are closed. The digital divide in Indian Country will prevent some AI/AN students from accessing alternative student support services such as tele-mental health care.

 “We must act quickly to ensure that Tribes, Native communities, and the schools serving Native students – whether at the early childhood, primary, secondary, or post-secondary level – have the resources they need to address the unique mental and behavioral health challenges facing AI/AN youth,” Sen. 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.”

Sen. Smith’s letter was also signed by Sens. Tom 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.).

You can access a copy of the letter here.