DIHFS was spotlighted in the October 2022 issue of 'NAVIGATOR' The Quarterly Newsletter from Colorado Access. The issue discussed Indigenous Peoples Day 2022 and what role DIHFS plays in the AI/AN community. Read below for the excerpt.
In October in the United States, we celebrate Indigenous People's Day, a holiday only formally recognized in 2021. According to the White House website, it’s a day to honor "America’s first inhabitants and the Tribal Nations that continue to thrive today." But it’s probably not completely out of line to say that our country’s indigenous population has had a history of being overlooked. It drives home the importance of recognizing this community and making sure it receives the right resources and care. It’s a need that was recognized by AccessCare (a subsidiary of Colorado Access) when they teamed up with Denver Indian Health and Family Services (DIHFS).
DIHFS, which has been around since 1978, is a health program that provides services to the American Indian/Alaska Native community in the Denver area. Many of the people seeking services through DIHFS live in a more urban setting, meaning they have left the more rural setting that their parents, grandparents, or ancestors traditionally lived in. At times, this can mean building a new community in their urban setting and DIHFS can help them do this. It provides them with a place to seek that community and accommodations they may be looking for to help them become established in their surroundings and seek services such as behavioral health. It also provides them with a walk-in clinic setting where they can see people who look like them and where they know important spiritual and cultural aspects will be upheld.
In President Biden’s 2021 proclamation declaring Indigenous People’s Day a U.S. holiday, he acknowledged the unfortunate circumstances that the Native American population has endured in our country, "For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures," President Biden wrote. "Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society. We also recommit to supporting a new, brighter future of promise and equity for Tribal Nations — a future grounded in Tribal sovereignty and respect for the human rights of Indigenous people in the Americas and around the world. "
Lefthand explains that the community sometimes experiences behavioral health issues due to historical trauma. This community has faced a history of relocations, services that eventually lapse, substance use issues, and violence. Having consistent services is important, such as the services received through AccessCare.
"It is truly a pleasure to work with DIHFS, they are a highly collaborative partner that has grown and evolved with us through the VCCI Program these past five years, and their outstanding staff shares our commitment to increasing access to care and prioritizing the needs, care and safety, of our shared patients," says George Roupas, director of telehealth for AccessCare.
But Lefthand wants to note that even though partnerships, services, and care are very important, the community itself deserves a lot of recognition for how they handle and overcome challenges. "Even though I’m very cognizant, and I think people should be cognizant of the experience of urban Indians, I think we can look at the social ails that urban Indians struggle with, but we also have to take into account the incredible resilience of urban Indigenous communities as well," Lefthand reminds us. "DIHFS is the only urban Indian organization in the entire state of Colorado providing services alongside with only, I believe, maybe two other tribal health facilities. Indigenous people make it work wherever they are, they make it work."
Colorado Access knows that its work would not be possible without the partnerships it maintains with more than 10,000 providers. And the organization is always looking for new partners and ways to build existing partnerships. If you have a story about a Colorado Access partnership to share with us, please email us at email@example.com.
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