Trump Administration to Help Native Americans Expand Telehealth Resources

Published November 14, 2018

The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Tribal Opioid Response grant program will oversee the disbursement of more than $50 million in federal grants to existing programs designed to improve access to care in underserved areas.

One of the means the program will use is telemedicine, also called telehealth. Telehealth services distribute health care services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies. Telehealth can improve treatments such as medication-assisted treatment therapy by increasing access to care and giving providers more opportunities to monitor their patients.

Connecting to Caregivers

Matthew Glans, a senior policy analyst at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, says one of the virtues of telehealth is its ability to reach underserved areas and populations such as Native American tribal lands.

“What a rural community needs to get started developing telehealth services is reliable broadband and will- ing doctors and patients,” Glans said. “Areas that may not have easily accessible hospitals or clinics are perfect for the administration of health care services via apps and the internet. Patients in rural areas, such as Native American tribal lands, can be treated remotely and won’t have to drive to the emergency room miles away for minor treatment, which helps free doctors up in emergency rooms to focus on serious cases and helps keep costs low, because resources are used efficiently.”

Improving Tribal Access

“The Tribal Opioid Response grant program will help provide access to a wide array of treatment solutions for tribal communities,” HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said in a statement announcing the program.

“Accessing treatment services can be especially challenging in rural areas like many parts of Indian Country,” Hargan said. “We will continue to engage with tribal nations through the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Commit- tee and community visits to hear concerns and develop programs that build on the strengths of tribal culture and customs.”

Full-Service Treatment

Glans says telemedicine has great potential to provide full-service health care to tribal members struggling with opioid addiction.

“Telehealth can include so many things,” Glans said. “It can be as simple as home-use applications that assess vital signs and diagnose common problems such as ear infections, to measuring blood pressure or monitoring glucose levels. And it allows patients to take charge of their health and provide the doctor with information without making a trip to the doctor’s office. Those suffering from opioid addiction will benefit from the ability of telemedicine to look at a person’s full situation and monitor all aspects of a person’s health.”


“HHS awards $50 million to assist American Indian and Alaska Native tribal efforts combating the opioid overdose epidemic,”, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, September 26, 2018: https://