County Health Board Discusses Potential MOU With Tribes

The Roosevelt County Health Department could pursue a memorandum of understanding with the Fort Peck Tribes regarding sanitation officers in the area. Discussion took place at a meeting of the Roosevelt County health board, Aug. 20, with officials from both entities present.

Sanitation officers, more commonly known as health inspectors, are responsible for the inspection and enforcement of cleanliness standards. Typically, these guidelines for sanitation are laid out by state governments. Sanitation officers are certified by the state and have minimum training requirements in order to qualify for certification.

However, tribally owned businesses are not subject to state health standards, but rather the standards set by the tribal board of health. State sanitation officers have no jurisdiction to inspect or enforce rules on tribally owned businesses.

The issue here is that sanitation officers in northeast Montana are often stretched thin with their workloads and cover a wide area. Representatives from both boards of health agreed that a memorandum of understanding could help alleviate some of this work load.

This potential MOU would work similarly to the way law enforcement officers are cross-deputized on the reservation. This would allow county sanitation officers to inspect and certify tribally owned businesses and vice-versa.

If an MOU was made official, both entities would have to follow state standards, because county employed sanitation officers are bound by the state. It would also require the tribal sanitation officer to be state-certified in order to approve non-tribally owned businesses.

Currently, this is not a requirement when approving tribally-owned businesses. However, it is unclear what differences, if any, exist in the two different standards. 

Both entities agreed that it is something that should be pursued, if possible. Examples given were the Blackfoot Reservation with Browning and Blaine County with Fort Belknap.

Other items of note:

•An AmeriCorps employee has pulled out of an agreement to move to Wolf Point and work with Roosevelt County. This was due to being unable to find adequate housing in the area.

•The board of health will look into a possible hepatitis C grant from the state.

•Roosevelt County Health Department has been chosen as a contributing member by the Fort Peck Tribes for a potential grant which would help fight the opioid crisis. It is the understanding of the department that they would help formulate a plan to combat opioid abuse in northeast Montana.

•The RCHD is looking into becoming a member of the Eastern Regional Healthcare Coalition.

• The next meeting of the Roosevelt County Board of Health is set for Nov. 19.