Montana Public Radio

Indian Health Service Providing Coronavirus Testing In Tribal Communities

Mar 19, 2020
Originally published on March 19, 2020 12:23 pm

The Indian Health Service is facilitating coronavirus testing in tribal communities across the United States and in Montana. 

Chairman Gerald Gray of the newly-recognized Little Shell Tribe says the Indian Health Service confirmed tribal members’ access to IHS facilities as of Wednesday morning.

He says the tribe doesn’t have its own clinic yet but tribal members can now access IHS facilities statewide.

“This is because IHS doesn’t have any new construction or what they call facility money for us. So, right now, even though it’s a federally recognized tribe, we have no facility to provide any kind of services to our members,” Gray said. 

Gray says he expects a written and signed confirmation of service, which last week Montana’s Congressional delegation encouraged IHS to provide.

IHS clinics are the most accessible form of medical service for many tribal members

Crow Tribe of Indians spokesperson Cordell Stewart says as of Wednesday afternoon, Crow IHS had sent five samples to be tested and all returned negative.

Health authorities in Yellowstone County say swab samples are taken at local healthcare facilities and sent to either the state lab in Helena or one of two private companies, Quest or LabCorp. They say the state lab turns results around in 24 to 36 hours while the private labs may take three to seven days.

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