Appropriations Committee Approves Health and Education Spending for Hawaii

Washington, DC—Today, Senator Brian Schatz announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal year 2014 appropriations bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.  The bill includes funding for several Native Hawaiian programs, including those related to health care and education.  This is a key step for securing critical funding to assist Hawaii families in tough budgetary times.

“Since January, I have worked with Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski and Subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin on securing funding for some of the most important programs for Hawaii families, particularly those that address the health and education gaps facing Native Hawaiians,” said Senator Brian Schatz, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.  “I thank my colleagues for their work on this important bill and for prioritizing Hawaii families during a time where we’re seeing cuts to programs due to sequestration.”

Funding levels as included in the bill passed by the Committee include:

Native Hawaiian Health Care Program, Health Resources and Service Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services- $14,421,000

Funding for Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems (NHHCS) programs is critical in order to improve the health of the Native Hawaiian population to the highest possible level.  Many Native Hawaiians face geographical, cultural, and financial barriers that prevent them from accessing existing health services.  Native Hawaiian Health Centers, run through the NHHCS program, provide critical access to health education, promotion, disease prevention, and basic primary care services for the over 8,400 Native Hawaiians enrolled in the NHHCS programs.  The Committee has committed to providing the same level it recommended for fiscal year 2013, for a total of $14,421,000. 

Native Hawaiian Education Act Program, Department of Education - $34,181,000

Native Hawaiians have reduced access to early childhood education, and they are less likely to attain a high school or college diploma than their peers.  To address this issue, funding under the Native Hawaiian Education Act develops innovative programs to advance education outcomes for Native Hawaiians by funding essential activities such as early education and care; family-based centers; reading and literacy programs; and opportunities for gifted and talented students of Native Hawaiian descent.  In 2012 grant awardees included Partners in Development Foundation’s Ka Pa‘alana Homeless Family Education Programand Windward Community College’s Pathway Out of Poverty program.  A full list of 2012 grantees is available at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/nathawaiian/awards12.html.

Title III Strengthening Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-serving Institutions, Department of Education- $12,833,000 million discretionary and $15,000,000 million mandatory

Less than 8 percent of Native Hawaiians have obtained a bachelor’s degree, whereas the state-wide average is nearly 20 percent.  In order to close this gap, institutions of higher education, such as universities and community colleges, with undergraduate populations with at least 10 percent Native Hawaiian students are eligible for Title III funding under the Higher Education Act.  Title III authorizes grants to higher education institutions to improve and expand educational opportunities for low-income students and minority groups, including Alaska Natives and tribally controlled colleges and universities.  The bill also includes $3,113,000 million in discretionary and $5,000,000 in grant funding for institutions with an enrollment of undergraduate students of at least ten percent Asian American or Native American Pacific Islander to improve their capacity to serve these largely low-income individuals.  In addition to this program, the Committee has also recommended funding that will serve our rural and underserved populations in providing funding for research and training opportunities that benefit not just Hawaii, but also the broader Pacific Region.

Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Programs, Bureau of Health Professions, Department of Health and Human Services -- $30,025,000

The Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program enhances access to high quality, culturally competent healthcare through community-based interprofessional and interdisciplinary training, continuing education, and health careers outreach activities that will ultimately improve the distribution, diversity, and supply of the primary care health professions workforce who serve in rural and underserved healthcare delivery sites.  The AHEC program in Hawaii serves four islands in the state, and also provide services to Pacific nations such as the Republic of Palau, and the Territory of American Samoa, providing much-needed training and education for these underserved and uniquely rural communities.  Run through the University of Hawaii, the AHEC program in Hawaii helped placed over 400 medical and public health students in rural and underserved areas to obtain clinical training and administer care, and helped over 2,770 health providers living and working in rural and underserved areas receive over 6500 hours of continuing education.  The AHEC program expects to provide 12 loan repayment contracts to healthcare providers for a total amount of $600,000 to individuals who provide primary care services in underserved communities for at least two years.

Payments to Hawaii for Hansen’s Disease Treatment, Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services -- $1,960,000

Since approximately 1917, the federal government has provided assistance for treatment of Hansen’s disease. Hawaii has a long history of Hansen’s disease, and exhibited the highest instance of the disease in the United States. From January 1866, through 1969 (ten years after Hawaii became a state), Hawaii isolated Hansen’s disease patients at Kalaupapa, now a National Historic Park. While the number of Hansen’s disease patients at Kalaupapa and statewide has reduced greatly, a recent influx of compact migrants suffering from Hansen’s disease, from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau under the Compact of Free Association has reflected in an increased number of patients. Indeed, Hawaii continues to exhibit higher instances of Hansen’s disease than many other states. Funding this reimbursement program allows the State to ensure the best possible care for these patients.

Diabetes Prevention Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services -- $10,000,000

The CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program is designed to bring to communities evidence-based lifestyle change programs for preventing type 2 diabetes. It is based on the Diabetes Prevention Program research study led by the National Institutes of Health and supported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The lifestyle program in this study showed that making modest behavior changes, such as improving food choices and increasing physical activity to at least 150 minutes per week, helped participants lose 5% to 7% of their body weight. These lifestyle changes reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58% in people at high risk for diabetes.  Currently, Hawaii has some of the highest rates of Diabetes compared to the entire country.  Native Hawaiians have more than twice the rate of diabetes as whites, and are almost 6 times more likely to die from the disease.  Filipinos living in Hawaii also have a death rate more than three times that of whites living in Hawaii due to diabetes.  This funding will build on efforts to tackle this pressing public health problem in our state.

Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) Grants, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services -- $53,916,000

REACH is a national initiative vital to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health. Through REACH, CDC supports awardee partners that establish community-based programs and culturally-tailored interventions to eliminate health disparities among African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian Americans, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders.  In Hawaii, REACH Grants have allowed the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center to target populations with high rate of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and breast and cervical cancer for not only the residents of the state, but also individuals suffering from these diseases in the Pacific Territories, and nations such as the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia.  The Committee is recommending that the program be provided $13,916,000 in discretionary funding, with another $40,000,000 provided through the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was created by the Affordable Care Act.

Impact Aid, Department of Education -- $1,290,945,000

Impact Aid is an important program that provides funding for the education of federally connected children, including the children of military families and American Indian children.  Impact Aid provides Basic Support Payments and Payments for Children with Disabilities, in addition to several other services, in order to improve the education system for these children whose families have sacrificed something for the sake of our country.  For military children, Impact Aid seeks to lessen the stress associated with moving to new schools and states.  These programs are of the utmost importance to federally connected children across the country. 

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