Vice President Nez voices concern about suicide and the rise of sexual violence in the Navajo Nation to federal health officials

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Contact: Jared King
Communications Director
Navajo Nation Washington Office

For Immediate Release

Vice President Nez voices concern about suicide and the rise of sexual violence in the Navajo Nation to federal health officials 

WASHINGTON—Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez expressed grave concerns over suicide and the dramatic increase in sexual violence on the Navajo Nation to tribal leaders and federal health officials at the quarterly two-day Indian Health Service Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee (TSGAC) meeting.

TSGAC develops and oversees the implementation of tribal self-governance legislation and authorities within the IHS under Title V of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.

In his remarks on day one of the meeting, Vice President Nez articulated suicide prevention efforts underway in schools and in communities across the Navajo Nation.

“This has been in the forefront for months now,” he said.

The Navajo Nation requested additional resources from IHS to address suicide and called for a nationwide suicide prevention campaign to combat this problem in Indian Country.

“We appreciate President Obama’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) Initiative, and we have to incorporate that into educating and instilling pride in our young people,” Vice President Nez said.

On the second day of the quarterly meeting, he explained that constituents who work directly with survivors of sexual violence recently contacted him about the epidemic plaguing the Navajo Nation.

They urged the Begaye-Nez administration to declare a state of emergency over the record levels of sexual violence committed within the Navajo Nation.

They also called for reorganization of the tribe’s health, public safety and judicial systems to support and protect the victims, enhance integrity and accountability of staff, and achieve maximum prosecution and conviction rates for safer communities.

“They described it as a public health crisis,” Vice President Nez said.

He spoke of the needs for the tribe to support in order to implement necessary change, including additional funding to support data reporting, laboratory testing and mental health services for survivors.

“Reliable data is needed to determine prevalence and incidence rates for accurate trends of sexual violence on the Navajo Nation, and comparison with other populations,” Vice President Nez said.

“Within the Navajo Nation, we have Title I, Title V and direct service IHS facilities. We could use direction from IHS on how we can better collect and share data so we can institute comprehensive, efficient and real-time surveillance systems for sexual violence, intimate violence, molestation, and violent death reporting,” he added.

The Navajo Nation currently lacks a laboratory in which samples can be studied. As a result, the Navajo Nation’s Epidemiology Center must send everything out to the state for testing purposes.

The vice president articulated the need for additional mental health funding to better meet the needs of the survivors.

“We are going to look at how to better meet the needs of the survivor in their transition from our health clinics, looking after their physical well-being, to our behavioral health offices for immediate and future counseling,” he said.


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