MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) has sent a letter to federal education and health officials, demanding accessible, comprehensive and culturally-competent mental health care for Indigenous youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the letter, Smith and several of her Senate colleagues say that Native American and Alaska native youth already faced mental and behavioral health challenges before the pandemic and may have an especially hard time finding care right now, during the pandemic.

Smith says that, due to so many seeking care at school, the federal administration needs to work to find solutions to reach these students while schools are closed.

“We must act quickly to ensure that Tribes, Native communities, and the schools serving Native students – whether at the early childhood, primary, secondary, or post-secondary level – have the resources they need to address the unique mental and behavioral health challenges facing AI/AN youth,” Sen. Smith and her colleagues wrote. “Congress and federal agencies need to support creative solutions to address disparities in access to care and ensure the COVID-19 pandemic does not further aggravate these inequities.”

Smith says congress and federal agencies must act quickly to ensure native communities and schools serving native students have the resources they need to address health challenges facing native youth.

Eight senators total, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, signed the letter. Click here to read.

The letter comes amid increasing criticism from Democrat leaders who say President Trump’s administration has failed Indigenous people.

Both Smith and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan have said that tribes have had to fight to get their fair share of the $8 billion in emergency COVID-19 relief provided to tribes.

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