Deputy Assistant Secretary Priorities
- Offer true and meaningful tribal consultation, listening sessions, and communication
Over the past year, I have stressed the importance of the federal government upholding its responsibilities through meaningful and good faith consultation with tribes. My attendance at nearly a dozen consultations has provided me the opportunity to make recommendations for improvements to the ACF consultation policy, and I will be soliciting input from tribal leaders on this topic. I am working to maintain open communication with tribes through the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee (STAC), HHS and ACF Annual Consultation, HHS Regional Consultations, and the ACF Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC) while also hearing from our Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities through listening sessions.
- Leverage partnerships within HHS and with sister agencies
I’m excited for the collaboration of my ACF colleagues, as well as other agencies within HHS such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Indian Health Service, where I’m particularly enthusiastic about our work with Urban Indian Health Centers. I’ve also worked to form partnerships with the Department of the Interior, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In the past several months, we’ve been working with the White House Domestic Policy Council on Tribal Issues. We’re working hard to leverage each other’s resources, share information and promising practices, and develop a cohesive government-wide response to issues that are impacting Native communities.
- Promote economic development
Building on ACF’s focus on careers vs. jobs, we’re working to foster economic mobility. We’re doing this through discretionary grants under our Social and Economic Development Strategies grant (the largest of our funding programs) along with partnering with other agencies and Native organizations to build a procurement database.
- Promote healthy Native communities
Through ICNAA, we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to foster healthy native communities. On this topic, I’m grateful for the collaboration of my colleague, RADM Michael Weahkee, Principal Deputy Director of the Indian Health Service. Priorities include developing tribal-specific responses to the opioid and substance abuse crisis, reducing teen smoking/vaping, and addressing the interconnected crises of human trafficking and Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. As part of this work, I’ve commissioned a diverse working group to address how we can better serve the needs of Native American veterans and improve public health, particularly among vulnerable targeted populations.
- Effective resource management
With limited funds and resources available, I believe it is essential that we work to reduce and/or eliminate duplicative efforts. As part of this, we’re partnering with sister agencies to share resources and align our programs. For example, in September of this past year, I co-signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between HHS, the Department of Education and the Department of the Interior to share resources and collaborate on our efforts to restore and revitalize Native languages.
- Government-wide advocacy for Native American issues
Even though ANA is a relatively small agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, as Commissioner, I have the unique statutory authority under the Native Americans Programs Act to “serve as the effective and visible advocate on behalf of Native Americans within the Department, and with other departments and agencies of the federal Government regarding all federal policies affecting Native Americans”.
- Provide opportunities for all—including lower-capacity and underserved communities
From my first days on the job, I’ve heard from Tribal leaders and others about the barriers they face in accessing federal resources, including ANA funding. To address this, we’ve formed a staff-level working group that will identify ways to make ANA’s application process easier. ANA’s training & technical assistance team is specifically targeting rural areas that don’t have federal funding. The team is hosting targeted project planning training, which provides high level details on how to develop a community-based project design including engagement, goal/objective setting, evaluation, and budgeting.
- Better serve targeted populations
While ANA programs support a wide variety of people, special importance is given for certain people, including youth and elders, as well a First Responders and veterans. To ensure we are meeting the needs of these special populations, I’ve convened a staff-level working group to incorporate best practices into our funding programs, and to develop and share resources for Native communities.
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