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Government Shutdown Meltdown

 Sister Michelle Woodruff, ASC

By Sister Michelle Woodruff, ASC

We who serve the native people of Northwestern New Mexico welcomed the news of a break in the protracted and painful partial government shutdown.

I am not only an Adorer, but a full-time community health nurse employed by the federal Indian Health Service in Crownpoint, New Mexico, in the remote Four Corners region of the U.S., where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico meet.

I serve the many health needs of the Navajo people who come for care to the Crownpoint Healthcare Facility, run by IHS.

The last 35 days of the partial government shutdown have made me and my Navajo Nation patients pawns in a political tug-of-war. We have ridden a roller coaster of emotions and concerns.

The shutdown has had a profound effect on my co-workers, Federal and Tribal agencies, families and me. It was so sudden, that no one was prepared for the loss of funding for federal programs as well as household income.

Today, President Trump announced he and congressional leaders had reached a deal to re-open the government until February 15 while negotiations continue over his demands for money to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexican border. Until Friday, the president had rebuffed a request by Congressional Democrats to reopen government while negotiations continue. The 35-day impasse broke following disruptions including delays at the nation’s airports

The uncertainties of the shutdown — when it will end, when/if we might get paid, what programs will run out of money that families rely on for assistance — have been difficult to manage and the source of stress, anxiety, anger and difficulty concentrating.

Of course, I have the support and care of the Adorers to sustain me but I worry about co-workers, families and individuals who are, or soon will be struggling for their basic needs. I cannot imagine what it is like for people with children and other family members relying on them for food, shelter, and warmth.

The Crownpoint Healthcare Facility was able to gather financial resources to pay all the employees for now but we don’t know how long this will last.  I have not seen that patients are affected by delays of care, but I am sure they feel the workers’ stress.

The shutdown has illustrated just how many critical programs and organizations rely on agencies that have not been funded.

Our mental health specialists at the clinic invited me and other employees to join in stress- and anxiety-reduction techniques as well as a Navajo traditional prayer.

I’ve been inspired to see how employees are helping each other with gifts of extra food items from their pantries as well as donated grocery store gift cards.

Our parish in Crownpoint already has an emergency food box program for anyone in need. Generous donors have made it possible for us to increase our supplies during this time.

I hope and pray for a quick and reasonable permanent resolution to the government shutdown so that all of our lives return to normal.


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