Council Member Rose Gokee: Gives an Update on Her Travels
I'm honored to be able to serve by representing and advocating on behalf of the tribe at the State, Federal and Local level. I have included in my report a list of meetings as well as other topics that I would like to share with the membership.
I traveled to Washington, DC to attend the National American Indian Housing Council Legislative Conference with Housing Director Mark Montano and Housing Board Member Terrance Manuelito from March 7-9, 2017. This was an opportunity to discuss, with other tribal leaders and representatives, legislative as well as other issues affecting Indian Country. A common topic was the reauthorization of NAHASDA (Native American Housing and Self Determination Act of 1996), drug and mold issues impacting Indian Country and the lack of or inadequate funding to address the housing needs of tribal communities. We also took the opportunity to travel to Capitol Hill to meet with BIA and BIE as well as staffers of Senator Baldwin, Senator Ron Johnson and Congressmen Sean Duffy regarding needs in our tribal community. (Housing paid travel which did not impact the tribal budget).
On May 9, 2017, I provided the welcome for the Wisconsin Child Support Directors Association. I then attended the State Department of Corrections Consultation. There are some great initiatives in place for inmates to receive training and services while incarcerated. It is concerning that most of the initiatives are in urban areas. The tribe does receive notice when individuals will be returned to the community. I met with Vocational Rehabilitation as well as CCS to discuss how we can best assist those individuals returning to the community with support services. In the afternoon on May 9th, the Governing Board met with Department of Health Secretary Linda Seemeyer. It was an opportunity for the tribe to share its concerns about options for care, for our elders and handicapped individuals under the waiver initiative.
On May 10, 2017, I attended the State Department of Health Consultation with tribes hosted by Lac Courte Oreilles. I asserted that the tribe wanted to exercise its sovereign right to operate a waiver program that would best meet the needs of tribal members in our community. However, the majority of other tribes in attendance voted to operate under the State's option. In the afternoon, I provided the welcome for the State Department of Children and Families Consultation with tribes. There was a vast amount of information provided and concerns shared. The majority of concerns fell with the growing number of children placed in out of home care due to the drug epidemic, as well as pregnant mothers that are addicted or babies born addicted. There is also a growing need for treatment facilities for pregnant women as well as where women can be accompanied by their children.
I traveled to Nashville, TN to attend the National American Indian Housing Council and Amerind Conference along with Housing staff from June 25- June 30, 2017. This was an opportunity to learn and share issues and concerns regarding housing in Indian Country. Again, the common topic was the reauthorization of NAHASDA, drug and mold issues impacting Indian Country and the lack of or inadequate funding to address the housing needs of tribal communities. (Housing paid travel which did not impact the tribal budget).
I attended the meeting of the Wisconsin Indian Education Association, from July 17-18, 2017, to learn of different initiatives and issues facing tribes in regards to education. I also had the opportunity to attend the Act 31 Celebration as well as the initial tribal-wide committee meeting regarding the revision of Act 31. The committee will work towards renaming Act 31 to one that is more relevant to tribes as well as amend the Act to incorporate standards relevant to curriculum.
On July 21, 2017 I provided testimony along with Housing Director Mark Montano at the Reauthorization of Native American Housing and Self Determination Act that was held at Lac Courte Oreilles at the request of Congressmen Sean Duffy. This hearing primarily focused on the mold issue at Lac Courte Oreilles and the $800,000 grant received by the tribe.
I traveled to Atlanta, GA with LCO Financial Services Staff and Board Members to attend a presentation on financial services and online lending from September 13-15, 2017. It was an opportunity for me to learn more about online lending as well as the possibility of expanding our call center which would provide more job opportunities in our community.
On October 12, 2017 I traveled to Oneida for a meeting on October 13, 2017 with Representative Kitchens regarding the Safe Haven Act followed by a meeting with tribal leaders in preparation for the upcoming State Consultations.
I traveled to National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Conference in Milwaukee from October 15-October 20, 2017. I attended breakout sessions as well as general assemblies. Presentations were held on a variety of issues facing Indian Country. The session I attended regarding drug issues in tribal communities had the most participation by tribal leadership. I also participated in a conference call on October 17, 2017 regarding the waiver initiative. On October 18, 2017 had a meeting with our attorney regarding the waiver initiative in preparation for the meeting with the Center for Medicaid/Medicare Services. On October 19, 2017 I attended a meeting between CMS, the State and tribes regarding the waiver initiative while at NCAI. (Health Center paid travel which did not impact the tribal budget).
I would like to share with you some information regarding the following:
1) Long-Term Care Waiver
I continue to attend the Long -Term Care Study Workgroup meetings as my schedule allows. On October 19, 2017 I attended a meeting in Milwaukee along with fellow council members Jason Schlender and Jason Weaver and Health Center Director Gregg Duffek and Waiver Director Denise Pommer. The tribe continues to take the stance that we exercise our sovereign right to operate a waiver program that will best meet the needs of the members in our tribal community. At the meeting, a small but significant progress was made toward the waiver initiative. While there are many areas that need to be worked on, the Tribe will continue to advocate to operate a tribal waiver program that will allow many of our elders and disabled adults to remain in the community rather than an institution.
2) Comprehensive Coordinated Services
The Comprehensive Coordinated Services Program provides wraparound services to individuals, as well as their family, that are impacted by AODA or mental health issues. Currently, the program has received: 87 referrals; 54 active participants; 9 individuals in treatment; and 3 discharges. It is encouraging to see the success of the program and the impact that is being made. I would also like to report that CCS Program Director Tammy Bergum and staff are in the process of applying for a grant to operate an adult treatment facility on the reservation. If approved the treatment facility will operate out of the old Halfway House. This is great news as the tribe is facing a growing drug epidemic.
3) Prevention Coalition
The Prevention Coalition meets on the fourth Wednesday of every month to discuss issues that are impacting our communities. Workgroups have been developed to meet the goals of the strategic plan. Please contact Dr. Gary Girard at the Health Care Center if you are interested in participating.
4) Indian Child Welfare
I would like to recognize the dedication of the Indian Child Welfare Department staff for the work that they do. The increase of drug issues continues to impact the number of cases managed by ICW. More infants are born drug addicted, there is a need for more foster homes, and more families are facing homelessness as a result of being evicted for drugs.
I would like to acknowledge Housing Director Mark Montano and his staff for obtaining the status of "Low Risk Auditee" which is the highest rating you can obtain which now makes them eligible to apply for competitive grants. I would also like to report that Housing will be applying for a Low Income Tax Credit Project funding which if approved, will allow for the rehabilitation of 28 home that are in the Housing stock.
6) Health Care Center
I would like to acknowledge Health Center staff that have been involved in expanding services and for their dedication to providing quality healthcare to the tribal community. The former Chippewa Wood Crafters Building is being renovated to house the Waiver Program, CCS Program and Behavioral Health Services. The renovation should be completed in December. Instead of owing millions the Health Care Center is investing third party revenue towards a new health and wellness facility.
On June 16, 2017 the Code of Conduct for the Tribal Governing Board was passed. With the passing of this Code it holds the Board to standards in representing the membership as an elected official. The Code also changed the Governing Board member compensation from hourly wages earning comp to salaried earning no comp. This was a past practice that had been in place for several years which allowed cash out of all comp and vacation earned. This Code will allow the Governing Board to cash out only the accruals allowed as earned, the same as employees under the Tribe's Personnel Policies and Procedures. This change will create less of a burden on the tribal budget going forward.
On October 23, 2017 the Governing Board met with Michelle McCormick from BIA regarding the tribe's high-risk status. The tribe has been in high-risk status since 2002. The tribe asserted the need to get off high risk. It will take two years of good audits to attain this goal. Significant progress has been in developing policies, amending policies, and ensuring policies are followed to avoid audit findings. Essentially, being on high risk means that the tribe has to cover expenses initially, those requests for expenditure or expenditures have to be reviewed by the tribe's compliance department, or at times the Procurement Officer or Travel Clerk, to ensure policy was followed or allowed under the contract or grant. After that point, the documents are submitted to the funding agency for their review before reimbursement can be made to the tribe.
In closing, I would like to remind the membership of the seven teachings so that we can be a good example for our youth and for future generations to come: 1) Honesty; 2) Humility; 3) Truth; 4) Wisdom; 5) Love; 6) Respect and 7) Bravery.
I appreciate the prayers for me, as well as my fellow Governing Board Members, to make decisions that are in the best interest of the Tribe.
Miigwech for the opportunity to serve!