HHS secretary visits to learn about Port Gamble S'Klallam's foster care program, health initiatives

LITTLE BOSTON — U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell visited the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe on Aug. 18 to learn about the Tribe’s Title IV-E foster care program and health initiatives.

“Leaders from other Tribes joined later in the day to speak publicly with the Secretary,” said Ginger Nikole Vaughan, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe spokeswoman. Among those in attendance: Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Tribe and president of the National Congress of American Indians; Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe and member of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; and Frances Charles, chairwoman of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

Burwell's visit was not a public event and no advance notice was sent out to the press, Vaughan said. The visit was Burwell’s first to any Tribe since she became secretary of HHS.

On April 1, 2012, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe became the first Native American community to operate its own guardianship, foster care and adoption programs.

The Tribe oversees services for child welfare, child support, child care and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. In addition, it operates a pilot program with the state of Washington to determine Medicaid and basic food benefits for Tribal members within Kitsap County.

During her visit, Burwell toured health offices in Little Boston, visited with medical clinic staff and patients, and met with Tribal leaders. The meeting took place in the S'Klallam Tribe's House of Knowledge.

Burwell, 48, was nominated by President Obama on April 11 to succeed Kathleen Sebelius, who resigned. Mathews' nomination was confirmed by the Senate on June 5.

According to her Wikipedia biography, Burwell served as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2013-14; president of the Walmart Foundation in 2012-13; executive director, and later president of the global development program, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, from 2001-12; and deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, 1998-2001.

Above: U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell visits with doctors and other staff members at the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe medical offices, Aug. 18. Ginger Vaughan / QuinnBrein

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