ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal officials said Tuesday they plan to make up to $110 million available to tribes seeking to support victims of domestic violence, assault, drug trafficking and other crimes amid an opioid crisis that has hit tribal communities especially hard.
U.S. Justice Department officials cited the high rates at which Native Americans are victims of violent crimes and die of drug overdoses.
Federal figures show a fivefold increase in overdose deaths between 1999 and 2015 among Native Americans — the largest increase for any group in that time span.
Meanwhile, more than half of Native American women in a National Institute of Justice survey released two years ago said they had been victims of sexual and domestic violence.
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“These numbers are staggering. But they don’t tell the full story,” Mary Daly, the Justice Department’s director of opioid enforcement and prevention, said at an Indian Country law enforcement training in Albuquerque. “Tribes and other communities across the country are suffering.”
Her remarks followed a meeting a day earlier with Pueblo leaders in northern New Mexico that touched on the shortage of treatment options available to Native Americans in rural areas and the unique challenges that come with enforcing drug laws in tight-knit communities.
The appropriation for tribes was tucked into the $1.3 trillion federal spending bill approved by Congress earlier this year and expires in September. It allows for 3 percent of the multi-billion-dollar Victims of Crime Act fund to be set aside for tribes.
The funds have long been made available to states and federal agencies. Tribes in the past often had to request funding from states.
Advocates for Native American women spent nearly two decades pushing for Congress to set aside money for victim services in Indian Country amid a broader, yearslong effort to strengthen protections for victims, especially women, in tribal communities.