First People of the Inland Empire are lacking in healthcare necessities despite the local Indigenous medical community going into overdrive to sustain patients.
Local First People of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians regions are filling in existing disparity gaps in health care provisions that have recently worsened in BIPOC communities.
BIPOC coverage and those in the fight for it reflect both the frustration of addressing these disparities with limited resources as well as the great relief those efforts grant the community.
John Torres is from the Tribal Historic Preservation Office for the San Gabrielino Band of Mission Indians and is an associate professor of Anthropology and American Indian Studies. He says that even though there was a greater susceptibility to disease amongst First People that initially came from a difference in agricultural practices to Northern Europeans, it is mostly structural racism doing the work today.
“All of us have a good mixture of pathogens and antigens giving us the ability to expand our immunological responses, but a great deal of the increased susceptibility among First People has to do with economics and lack of access to healthcare,” says Torres.
The San Manuel Indian Clinic is serious about supporting their community members all the way, even free healthcare.
One patient testimonial at the clinic website reads, “No charge if you are Native American.”
Crystal Jimenez is an operator and coordinator for the San Manuel Indian Health Clinic and expressed the added stressors of COVID-19.
“There is a higher number of calls and patients coming through at the clinic which is a little more stressful for the staff,” claims Jimenez.
Data from the Indian Health Service website, which is the umbrella organization for the San Manuel Indian Health Clinic, states that the eight facilities under the Riverside and San Bernardino County domain services 37,463 registered Indigenous patients.
“It is a much heavier workload for the staff. People have to call often, anytime they are experiencing symptoms,” says Jimenez.
Ultimately, Jimenez labels the clinic’s services invaluable.
Other sources praise the current clinics available, for providing otherwise inaccessible resources to the clinics of the community, but they also say it is not enough.
“First People health care facilities are just extremely underfunded,” states Torres.
He notes the distinct success Navajo Nation, his identified community, has had in managing its health care facilities, and creating greater quality control for their community specifically.
“For the Navajo nation, because we are so big we operate our own medical facilities,” says Torres.
Britney Davis is the Patient Registration Director for Riverside and San Bernardino County Indian Health, Incorporated. They give greater insight into the health care background of many of the patients at clinics such as the San Manuel location.
“All of our clinics specialize in seeing native Americans. I would say 40% of our patients provide insurance provided to them through private companies and 30% have insurance provided to them by the government.”
“If you are an established patient here, you do not necessarily need to have insurance, nor do you have to pay any copays or deductibles,” states Davis.
Davis goes on to detail the ubiquitous hoops and loops local Indigenous families face acquiring their federally funded services for the entirety of their family.
“We get our funding from the government. Our patients do have to follow guidelines and policies that have been put in place to allow us to receive those grants. You have to have all your documents showing you are from a federally recognized tribe. Also, if you are a spouse you have to have an approved marriage certificate. Once we institute it into the system you are able to be seen at any of our departments in the medical facility. Just as long as you are updating your chart yearly.”