Indian Health Service: Mental Health/Alcohol and Substance Abuse Programs

April 2005

The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends that Congress provide an additional $30 million to the Indian Health Service for mental health and alcohol and substance abuse programs.

Background

  • The President's FY 2006 proposed budget for the Indian Health Service is $3.047 billion. The proposed budget requests $59.2 million for mental health programs, an increase of $4.2 million above FY 2005, and $145.3 million for alcohol and substance abuse programs, an increase of $6.2 million above FY 2005.

  • Poverty is a significant contributing factor toward mental and substance abuse disorders. The per capita annual income in the Navajo Nation is $4,106, and for every 100 children entering elementary school, only seven will go on to college. The poverty rate for American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) in 2001was 24.5 percent, as compared to 7.8 percent for non-Hispanic whites. The median household income estimate for American Indians and Alaska Natives was $32,116, as compared to $46,305 for non-Hispanic whites. These factors have contributed to AI/AN having higher mortality rates than whites at each stage of the life span.

  • According to the 2002 Institute of Medicine Report, Reducing Suicide, "Suicide represents a major national and international public health problem." Inadequate mental health and substance abuse services contribute to a suicide rate for AI/AN that is about 1.7 times the rate for all races in the U.S, and the suicide rate for males 15 to 34 years of age is over two times the national rate. The death rate attributed to alcohol for AI/AN is 45.5 per 100,000, as compared to 6.7 per 100,000 for all races. Studies have shown that 70 percent of all suicidal acts (completions and attempts) in AI/AN country involved alcohol. In addition, 22 percent of AI/AN experience posttraumatic stress disorder, as compared to 8 percent of the general population.

  • The 2003 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that the rate of illicit drug use among youths aged 12 or older was highest among AI/AN (12.1 percent).

  • Increasing the number of psychologists and other qualified mental health professionals will provide significant resources to AI/AN communities struggling with suicide, child abuse, and domestic violence.

Recommendations

The American Psychological Association strongly urges Congress to:

  • Provide an additional $30 million for mental health and alcohol and substance abuse programs.

  • Provide funds for the establishment of a National Suicide Prevention Center in American Indian country.

  • Increase the number of psychologists and other qualified mental health professionals in the Indian Health Service.