Southcentral Foundation Reaches Historic Settlement With IHS

Anchorage based Southcentral Foundation announced a settlement with the Indian Health Service over contract payments that at $96 million represents the largest IHS settlement in history.

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Lloyd Miller is one of the attorneys who brought suit against the IHS on behalf of tribes. Miller says after the U.S Supreme court in 2005 ruled the federal government was liable for underfunding tribal contracts, tribes filed hundreds of suits, but the IHS still refused to pay or settle, until the Supreme court reaffirmed their ruling in 2012.

“That signaled the beginning of a very long and very arduous settlement process because by late 2012, the agency was facing claims by over 200 tribes and inter-tribal organizations totaling in excess of $2 billion,” Miller said.

Miller says no claims were settled until 2013. But he says over the last 3 or 4 months, the logjam of disagreement over how to proceed with settlements has broken. Other payments in Alaska have happened in recent weeks, and Miller says the Yukon Kuskokwim settlement in December was the second largest in history behind Southcentral.

“Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation settled in December for $39 million and also settlements have been achieved for the Manillaq Corp, the Ketchikan Indian Corp, the Arctic Slope Native Association and the Bristol Bay Health Corporation,” Miller said. “All of those have been resolved and there are many more in active negotiations right now.”

Miller says the money will have great impact for Alaska tribes.

Katherine Gottlieb is the President and CEO of Southcentral Foundation. She says signing the agreement was a relief.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori