IHS Director Concedes to Daines More Must be done to Combat Suicide in Tribal Communities

U.S. SENATE — During a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee, the Acting Director of the Indian Health Service (IHS), conceded to U.S. Senator Steve Daines that IHS is not doing enough to combat the suicide epidemic in Indian country.

During the hearing, Daines confronted Admiral Weahkee with the startling statistic that American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest rates of suicide of any demographic group in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Daines asked Admiral Weahkee that in light of these statistics, did he believe IHS was accomplishing its mission to combat suicide.

Admiral Weahkee conceded, “more work needs to be done and more strategies need to be developed.”

Tribal Suicide

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“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: In reality, IHS stands for ‘Indian Health Suffering’ and I refuse to stand for this reality,” said Daines. “I will continue to demand accountability at IHS. And on behalf of Montana’s tribes, I call on your agency to do better. IHS is failing them.”


On April 11, 2018, Daines’ bill to improve healthcare services for Montana’s tribes, the Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service Act of 2017, passed the Indian Health Service passed the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

On December 21, 2017, Daines introduced bipartisan legislation, the Mitigating the Methamphetamine Epidemic and Promoting Tribal Health Act, or the Mitigating METH Act, to combat methamphetamine use across Montana and strengthen Indian tribes’ ability to fight this epidemic.

On September 21, 2016, Daines helped move forward reforms that would improve patient safety and care by increasing accountability and transparency at the Indian Health Service (IHS).

On September 20, 2016, Daines announced $104,602.00 in funding for the Crow Tribe to reduce and prevent methamphetamine abuse and suicide prevention strategies in Native youth.

On February 3, 2016, Daines pushed Indian Health Service (IHS) officials on the agency’s persistent shortcomings in providing quality reliable access to health care services for tribal members across the nation and called on IHS to urgently implement much-needed reforms to address the deficiencies plaguing the agency.

On March 11, 2015, Daines fought for Montana’s tribes, pressing Obama administration witnesses on the responsible stewardship of federal funds to benefit tribal housing, health services and public safety.