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Help Accessing Health Coverage in Ore. Available to Native Americans

A new program from CareOregon is helping the state's tribal members get transportation and more to access culturally appropriate health services. (Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation)
A new program from CareOregon is helping the state's tribal members get transportation and more to access culturally appropriate health services. (Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation)
August 3, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – A new care coordination model is helping Oregon's tribal members access the health care they have been promised.

This week, CareOregon started its program for Native Americans in the Oregon Health Plan fee-for-service program, and developed it with nine federally-recognized tribes in the state, as well as the Native American Rehabilitation Association.

Sharon Stanphill, health operations officer for the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, said tribal members usually pick and choose care venues from a number of options. But options can be limited, especially for rural tribal members looking for specialized care.

"CareOregon is really breaking down some of those barriers to health care delivery,” Stanphill said. “And these are barriers that shouldn't be happening for tribal members in Oregon."

She said this new model will help coordinate transportation and social service needs, and will provide culturally appropriate services for Oregon's Native American population.

Jackie Mercer, CEO of the Native American Rehabilitation Association, said this program is going to change lives and help tribal members get the best care they can. Mercer said there are many health disparities in native communities, including higher rates of diabetes, alcoholism, and a suicide rate for young adults that is nearly double the national average.

But Mercer noted these health gaps shouldn't lead to the stereotyping of Native Americans.

"We're not the diseases, we're not those disparities. We're just people trying to make our best way in this world,” Mercer said. "So, investing in native people has tremendous positive outcomes."

Erin Fair Taylor, CareOregon's executive director of legal affairs, said people can participate in this program without any changes to the providers they currently see.

"This program won't require that they change providers. It simply is a resource for people who may not know where to go, who may not know what next steps might be for accessing the care that they need,” Taylor explained. "They can call us and we can help navigate the system on their behalf."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR