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HMS Initiative Aids Reservation

By Christina G. Vangelakos, Contributing Writer

The Fort Peck Native American Reservation in Montana will receive a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fund a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School (HMS) program geared towards assisting the reservation, according to MGH.

The program funds an MGH internship for one, preferably Native American, student, providing behavioral- and mental-health-skills training that is not available to the Native American community, according to Dennis Norman, the MGH chief of psychology. He added that the recipient would be able to use these skills at Fort Peck after training.

The rest of the grant will fund high-level video cameras capable of free internet video-conferencing, which will improve communication between the teachers, students, and health care providers at Fort Peck and researchers at MGH and HMS.

“Native American health services are remarkably underfunded...even more so than Medicare,” he said.

April D. Youpee-Roll ’08, the secretary of Native Americans at Harvard College (NAHC) who is a tribal member of Fort Peck, said she is very excited about this project.

“Like many Native American reservations, my home is notorious for high suicide rates and problems with drugs and alchohol...problems too big for us to handle,” she said. “Just by existing, the program will be a model and hopefully open up more opportunities like it.”

Youpee-Roll added that the grant “is not a lot of money, but it’s a good start.”

Leah R. Lussier ’07, president of Native Americans at Harvard College (NAHC), also said that reservations need assistance.

“Most reservations are comparable to third-world countries,” she said. “Taking steps like this will add to the viability of these communities to raise children who will persevere and attain equal opportunities to other people in the U.S.”

The project’s ultimate goal is to create a model for attracting Native American students to careers in public health, according to Norman.

Harvard has had a four to five year-long relationship with Fort Peck, Norman said. The University flies 10 kids from the reservation every summer to Cambridge to take an HMS course.

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