Ali Desautel, executive director of Lake Roosevelt Community Health Centers, explains an agreement between her facilities and the Veterans Administration that will assist American Indian vets

INCHELIUM – American Indian veterans on or near the Colville Reservation have a new option for health care.

Since August, Lake Roosevelt Community Health Centers in Inchelium and Keller has been approved to treat veterans without preauthorization from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“It’s really nice, we don’t have to do prior approvals or anything,” said Ali Desautel, executive director of the health centers. “We just have to make sure they have their insurance card or VA card, they can come here and receive care, which is better than (traveling to) Colville or Spokane.”

Included in the list of services are: direct care at Inchelium Health Services or San Poil Valley Health Center; receiving medications on the clinic and VA's formulary; co-pays are taken care of; and medical information can transfer easily through both the IHS and VA systems.

One area vets won't receive assistance is  with referrals to outside providers.

"You must still work through the VA system for outside referrals," Desautel wrote in a notice to area veterans.

Qualifications include being enrolled in the medical insurance program for the Veterans Administration, presenting a VA medical insurance card and proving eligibility of being an American Indian or Alaskan Native veteran.

The VA presented at the quarterly Northwest Portland Indian Area Indian Health Board meeting, where Desautel questioned whether or not her facilities qualified.

“And we did,” she said. “So we started working on it and working with the VA.”

That process took nine months, she said, and staff at the health centers are preparing pamphlets to send to area tribal veterans with the guidelines.

Desautel hopes that soon non-Indians will be able to be seen with equal benefit.

“There is a contract coming out soon for non-Natives,” she said, “because they really need it.”

An effort to assist non-Indians in rural communities is underway, said Desautel, who wrote a letter of support.

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