Aug 23 2018
Heitkamp Helps Pass Bipartisan Bill to Provide Strong Support for North Dakota Defense Priorities, Servicemembers, Access to Health Care, Educators, & Workers
Senator Successfully Pushed for a Provision to Give Health Care Providers the Training they Need to Identify and Protect Victims of Human Trafficking
Bipartisan Legislation Also Includes a Pay Raise for All Active Military Personnel, Funding for Upgraded Engines on Minot’s B-52s, & Increased Funding for Community Health Centers and Rural Health Programs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today voted with a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate to pass legislation that includes major wins for North Dakota’s defense communities, rural health care and education priorities, tribal colleges, and workers.
The bipartisan bill includes a provision Heitkamp successfully fought for to make sure North Dakota health providers have the training they need to identify, treat, and protect victims of human trafficking. Recent studies suggest that nearly one-third of women trafficked in America saw a health care professional while they were still captive to these crimes— and that increased training of health professionals to identify red flags of human trafficking could allow victims to receive resources and services to get the protection and care they require.
“This bipartisan bill helps give North Dakota’s rural communities the access they deserve to affordable health care, good public schools, and flexible tools to address urgent challenges like substance abuse and high rates of childhood exposure to trauma,” said Heitkamp. “As a member of the Senate Defense Communities caucus, I know how important North Dakota’s servicemembers are to keeping our country strong and safe. This legislation would help give them a much-needed pay raise and the equipment they need, such as upgraded B-52 engines— which I’ve long fought for. I successfully pushed to include an amendment in this bill that makes sure North Dakota doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals have the proper training to identify and get help for victims of sex trafficking. Our rural communities are the backbone of our state, and this bill would provide them with additional resources to lower rates of maternal mortality, strengthen our rural health care workforce, improve the range of courses offered to high school students, and continue to reinforce the critical national security role of North Dakota’s defense installations and the invaluable contributions of our military families.”
The bipartisan package includes several key provisions Heitkamp fought for to support North Dakota’s servicemembers, boost access to health care in rural areas, combat substance abuse and addiction, and promote a skilled workforce, including:
- Training health care providers to address the needs of North Dakota human trafficking victims. The bill includes a Heitkamp-sponsored amendment that would make sure health care professionals have the tools and training they need to implement Stop, Observe, Ask, and Respond (SOAR) to Health and Wellness programs. Last year, Heitkamp and Collins reintroduced their SOAR to Health and Wellness Act to help make sure health care providers – including doctors, nurses, and social workers – have the training they need to help identify and protect victims of human trafficking.
- Combatting high rates of maternal mortality in the United States. More women in the U.S. die from pregnancy-related complications than in any other developed nation, and the U.S. is the only developed country where the rate of these deaths has been has been rising. This bill includes $50 million in funding for a new initiative aimed at reducing maternal mortality, including $12 million for expanded data collection and surveillance at State Maternal Mortality review boards and $38 million to expand evidence-based programs to prevent maternal mortality and advance maternal health equity. In June 2018, Heitkamp’s bipartisan legislation to strengthen on-the-ground resources to combat this growing crisis passed out of a Senate committee.
- Making sure federal officials understand and respond to the significant impacts of addiction and high rates of suicide in North Dakota. Heitkamp successfully pushed for an amendment that would require the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct a comprehensive study and submit to Congress a report that includes a portfolio analysis of current funding levels of the NIH related to mental health and substance use disorder across the country. The legislation also would provide $5.7 billion the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is an increase of more than $579 million from fiscal year 2018. This includes $1.5 billion, an increase of $500 million, for State Opioid Response Grants. The bill also provides an increase of $50 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics and $25 million for the Mental Health Block Grant.
- Boosting rural access to telehealth in North Dakota, particularly for maternal care. Heitkamp fought to include an amendment in the bipartisan bill that would provide $1 million for telehealth pilots to connect expectant mothers in rural areas to facilities with obstetric care.
- Directing federal agencies to understand the health impacts of childhood exposure to trauma. The bill encourages federal agencies to coordinate and improve their activities that actively address childhood trauma and to promote best practices for identifying, referring, and supporting children exposed to trauma. Last year, she introduced legislation to provide a more trauma-informed supportive law enforcement, health service, and workforce network that children and families, particularly those in tribal communities, need for healthy growth and development.
- Expanding access to North Dakota’s Community Health Centers (CHCs). The bill includes $5.63 billion—an increase of $200 million—to expand funding for CHCs, the largest safety net of systems for primary and preventive care in the United States. Additionally, the bill requires $200 million to be used to expand services related to preventing and treating substance use disorders and to expand mental health services. Heitkamp fought to secure increased funding for Community Health Centers after the Community Health Center Fund expired last year.
- Increasing funding for rural health programs. The bill includes $318.8 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) rural health programs, which is an increase of $28 million. This funding would provide $40 million for Area Health Education Centers (AHEC).
- Increasing support for medical research that benefits research institutes. The bill includes increased funding for biomedical research in rural and underrepresented state research institutions, such as North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota, through the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program.
- Boosting funds for lifesaving medical research to combat diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. The bill would provide $39.1 billion for the NIH, an increase of $2 billion. The increase includes an additional $425 million for Alzheimer’s disease research for a total of $2.34 billion. It also includes increases of $29 million for the BRAIN Initiative and $37 million for research to combat antimicrobial resistance.
- Giving rural communities the tools they need to combat the ongoing opioid and methamphetamines epidemic in North Dakota. The bill includes $120 million to address substance abuse, including opioid abuse, and the overdose crisis in all rural communities nationwide. Within the funding provided, the bill includes $20 million for the establishment of rural centers of excellence on substance use disorders to support best practices related to the treatment for and prevention of substance use disorders within rural communities.
- Building a primary care and support workforce that is equipped to combat the substance abuse crisis in North Dakota’s rural communities. The bill would provide $105 million for the National Health Service Corps and expand loan repayment eligibility requirements to include substance use disorder counselors, which will support recruitment and retention of health professionals needed in rural and underserved areas. The bill also continues $75 million for the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program, $37 million for the Mental and Behavioral Health training program, and $15 million for the Rural Residency Development program.
- Maintaining strong support for those who improve the lives of North Dakota’s disabled populations. The bill maintains funding for the University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, which makes sure professionals who support the disabled are adequately and appropriately trained to help those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live better lives. For example, the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities provides workshops and training and performs outreach events dedicated to helping disabled individuals with experiences unique to rural and small-town living.
- Giving rural schools the support they need to serve North Dakota students. The package includes funding that would support Rural Education under School Improvement Programs. In the 2015-16 school year in North Dakota, over two out of three public schools were rural and 37 percent of students attended rural districts. The small size and remoteness of many rural schools and districts creates a different set of challenges from those of urban schools and districts. These school districts use this funding to support innovative strategies— including classroom technology, distance learning, and professional development initiatives.
- Securing increased funding for Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Career and Technical Institutions, such as United Tribes Technical College (UTTC). UTTC is one of two tribal technical colleges in the nation that provides postsecondary career and technical education. UTTC offers comprehensive education and training programs to Indian students from tribes located across the country and provides students, many of whom are non-traditional college students, the opportunity to further their education while continuing to attend to their family and community responsibilities. Because UTTC is not part of the state higher education system, the college does not receive state-operational funds. This funding builds on Heitkamp’s efforts to protect the mission of UTTC, including successfully pushing for a waiver that prevented the college from losing its Pell Grant Eligibility.
- Strengthening Tribal Colleges. This bill increases funding for Tribal Colleges and Universities. This program helps tribal colleges and universities increase their self-sufficiency by providing funds to improve and strengthen their academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability.
- Maintaining funding for Indian Education Grants to Local Educational Agencies. Education for Native students is critical to economic development, success in adulthood, and community ownership and empowerment. Critical funding from the Indian Education Formula Grants provides resources for school districts to meet the unique educational and culturally-relevant academic needs of Native students. Funding is used for academic enrichment programs, professional development, basic cultural-awareness, early-childhood and family programs, curriculum development, and culturally-related activities.
- Giving Native students access to Native American Language immersion programs. This bill would secure funding for Native American language immersion programs. Research has shown that Native students learn best and succeed when their teachers incorporate culturally-relevant curricula and content into the classroom. Native language immersion provides school districts and Native communities the critical opportunity to provide Native students the tools for academic success by incorporating Native languages and culture into the classroom.
- Boosting certified personnel to serve children with disabilities. The National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services reports that 49 of the 50 states have a shortage of special education and related services personnel. This shortage results from a combination of both available personnel to fill the open positions and the difficulty in retaining special education teachers in the field. This bill secures funding for the Personnel Preparation program, which helps meet State-identified needs for adequate numbers of fully certified personnel to serve children with disabilities.
- Protecting funding for North Dakota Museums and their collections. This bill maintains funding for the Office of Museum Services under the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The IMLS Office of Museum Services is the largest source of dedicated funding for our nation’s museums, helping them stimulate lifelong learning, spur economic development, and anchor community identity.
- Enhancing student achievement by supporting teachers and principals. This bill maintains critical funding for the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant program. In North Dakota, SEED grants have been used to provide year-long institutes for teachers to support the teaching of writing for rural and tribal schools. In turn, this improves the college and career readiness of North Dakota students.
North Dakota’s Defense Communities
- Supporting infrastructure projects that benefit both North Dakota’s military installations and defense communities. The bill includes a bipartisan amendment Heitkamp cosponsored to give the Department of Defense more flexibility to build mutual-interest projects in defense communities, such as public-private infrastructure in Grand Forks and Minot. Heitkamp’s amendment would allow up to $20 million to be used to build projects related to transportation, community support, or utilities in communities near military installations.
- Upgrading and modernizing the nation’s B-52 fleet. The bipartisan bill would provide $459 million for upgrades to the B-52 long-range strike bomber, like those at the Minot Air Force Base. In January, Heitkamp led a bipartisan group of senators in calling for new or upgraded engines on the Air Force’s B-52s while the next generation of bombers is being developed. Following Heitkamp’s push, the Air Force announced that Minot Air Force Base will continue to host bomber missions.
- Securing funding to modernize and maintain the nuclear arsenal. The bill includes roughly $625 million for the Long-Range Stand Off (LRSO) missile, $555 million to maintain the intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) arsenal and $345 million for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent— the replacement for the Minuteman III missiles. Heitkamp has outlined her national defense priorities to keep Americans safe in the face of rising threats across the globe, which includes strengthening investment in the strategic nuclear deterrent and modernizing the ICBMs at Minot Air Force Base.
- Boosting the security of the U.S. strategic deterrent. The bill includes funding to replace the UH-1N Huey Helicopters that provide security for ICBM silos. Heitkamp has consistently called on Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Defense Secretary Mattis to accelerate the replacement of Minot’s Vietnam-era UH-1N helicopters, which patrol and protect Minot’s ICBM missile sites. Last month, Senator Heitkamp met with Brigadier General Andrea Tullos, the Air Force’s Director of Security Forces, to discuss training and personnel issues confronting the Security Forces career field and the Reconstitute Defenders Initiative.
- Advancing unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operations and communications in support of national defense. The bipartisan bill would authorize $386 million for the Global Hawk program, including the RQ-4 Global Hawk program at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. Heitkamp pushed to secure funding and long-term support for the RQ-4 Global Hawks in the defense authorization bills signed into law in December 2017 and August 2018. In September 2017, Heitkamp met with Colonel Benjamin W. Spencer, Commander of the 319th Air Base Wing at Grand Forks, to discuss efforts to strengthen the base’s role in protecting the United States’ national security, including pioneering new uses for UAS technology. Earlier this week, Heitkamp and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson received briefings on the Global Hawk mission in Grand Forks.
- Strengthening UAS safety and integration in North Dakota and across the country. The Senate-passed legislation would provide $7.8 million for research into unmanned traffic management. Last week, Heitkamp announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted a two-year authorization for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site near Grand Forks to fly large UAS beyond visual line of sight. And this week, helped host Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson to view the first civil beyond visual line of sight flight to be conducted from Grand Sky aviation park.
- Making sure North Dakota servicemembers have the pay they’ve earned through their service. The bill Heitkamp helped pass today includes a provision to fully fund a 2.6 percent pay raise for all active military members.
- Boosting funding to advance Department of Defense priorities through cutting-edge research and development. The legislation would make significant investments in Department of Defense (DoD) research and development, such as ongoing projects at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University to supply advanced materials, fund research through the DoD Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCor), and provide the armed services with coating technologies, augmented reality systems, and research into UAS payloads and performance technology.
- Upgrading utility helicopters to better serve U.S. military missions overseas. The bill would provide $5 million to adapt the CH-53 and V-22 lightweight cargo loading systems—like those produced by UTC Aerospace Systems in Jamestown—to more adequately respond to a variety of changing missions and objectives.
- Addressing a nationwide shortage of helicopter pilots. The bipartisan bill would provide $4 million for a helicopter pilot training initiative. Last September, Heitkamp announced a new Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations (AMO) pilot training program at the University of North Dakota to help address a nationwide shortage of AMO pilots.
- Maintaining support for critical workforce training programs in North Dakota. The bill would provide $2.8 billion for state workforce programs. Additionally, the bill includes $1.7 billion for Job Corps— such as the Quentin N. Burdick Job Corps Center in Minot—and increased funding for registered apprenticeship programs.
- Making sure older North Dakotans can support their communities through their work. The bill would maintain funding for the Community Service Employment Program for Older Americans (SCSEP).