Dr. Thomas Dean Sequist, a member of the Taos Pueblo tribe of New Mexico, told the House Ways and Means Committee that many issues are exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic among Native American families across the United States.
During the Wednesday hearing on the Disproportionate Impact of Covid-19 on Communities of Color, Sequist, who is a chief patient experience and equity officer at Mass General Brigham Hospital in Boston, said he has seen a shortage of testing and supplies.
“What I’ve observed with the Navajo Nation is that the shortage of testing there, and the lack of personal protective equipment there, that far exceeds what we’re seeing in Boston,” he said.
Covid is impacting social issues as well, he said. “We already know that mental health actually impacts these communities to a much larger degree than other communities prior to Covid. We also know that these communities have a large history of historical trauma that the source of the trauma,” he said, adding, “We fully expect that there will be a wave of mental health need coming this summer, that’s going to follow this wave of infections.”
Sequist said families have been hit hard across many generations. “There are entire families that have either been infected with it, or have had multiple deaths in the family, all at once. And that is going to create a trauma that’s going to be long lasting and a need for mental health services,” he said.
“It’s going to far outstrip, what are already stressed mental health system is able to provide,” he added.
“We cannot flip back into complacency,” Sequist said, adding the circumstances that created the crisis “existed long before Covid, and will persist long after unless we take decisive action starting today.”