Oklahoma Fourth District Representative Tom Cole said that the Chickasaw Nation Diabetes Care Center in Ada "sets the standard" for this type of facility.
Cole visited the center one week after Congress voted to renew the Special Diabetes Program for Indians as part of the American Tax Payer Relief Act of 2012.
"I've seen any number of these things, and this is probably the premier diabetes prevention, treatment and research center in Indian Country," Cole said.
Services at the diabetes care center focus on prevention of diabetes as well as education to help patients minimize the devastating complications associated with the disease. Those complications may include amputation, blindness, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and even gum disease.
"I've seen, particularly in some of the other clinics, the damage to limbs, to feet, to eyes - and you think about this person who is going to have to live with this indefinitely or forever and how their lifespan is going to be shortened," said Rep. Cole. "I mean look at a life without diabetes or in a controlled situation versus what it is otherwise. So that's the human savings that is just beyond calculation."
The congressman said prevention and control of diabetes also makes great financial sense for tribal, state and federal government.
"Something like one out of three dollars in the health care system now is going to treat diabetes related conditions," he said. "So think about how much money we spend on health care as a federal government or state governments - it's extraordinary. So these are great investments from a federal standpoint.
"Chickasaws can be very proud because this is some of the money generated by their enterprises put to really good use to touch positively the lives of their citizens and others in the area."
Cole, a Chickasaw and one of only two American Indians in Congress, also offered praise to members of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Interior, which appropriates funds for the Indian Health Service and many other tribal programs.
"It's really been a most wonderful partnership between Republicans and Democrats who fight cats and dogs over EPA funding and a lot of other things, but we don't on Indian funding."
He said the subcommittee chairman Mike Simpson of Idaho, has been to the facility and was thrilled to see the difference it makes. Democrats Jim Moran of Virginia and Betty McCollum of Minnesota are also members of the subcommittee.
"We just have a really good group of people that care about Native American issues, that are knowledgeable about them, and want to find ways to work together on them. So it's very different than most of the other things that go on in Congress right now."
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