In the past 18 months the Navajo Nation has seen a sharp rise in human trafficking incidents involving a medical fraud scheme and the Arizona Health Care Cost and Containment System (AHCCCS).
On Thursday, May 4, at Madison Meadows Middle School, eighth-grade students presented and brought attention to a type of human trafficking involving medical fraud that is currently taking place on the Navajo Nation. Native members seeking medical attention outside of the Navajo Nation are being billed for services that were not provided and then held in homes, harassed, or abandoned while the traffickers continue to bill AHCCCS.
“It is an issue that affects a large under-represented part of our AZ community,” said Matt Goff, an advisor to the middle school students. “It’s an issue that doesn’t have a whole lot of awareness around it.”
All IB students at Madison Meadows are required to complete a community project in their eighth-grade year. They are given the prompt to find something that addresses a need in a community and can take the form of direct action, indirect action, advocacy or research.
For their eighth-grade project, students Holden Sage Murrillo, Liam Tracey and Payton Turner sought to bring more awareness to a problem that has been affecting Native American communities for a decade.
“The feelings that come to mind are worrying about Navajo Nation members and what is happening. I also feel that more people should know about it and help bring attention to the problem,” said Turner.
Their project website states, “We started by researching the problem so we could find information that would help us take action, such as, how Native Americans are being abducted, and how this is affecting taxpayers. We also interviewed Walter Murillo, who is the CEO of Native Health.”
Their research led the students to the Arizona Legislature, where they found SB1136, which was introduced to fix the AHCCCS payment loophole. The students then created an email campaign championing the bill.
For their efforts, the students’ project was named the “Most Impactful Project” out of 90 other projects by the teachers and administration at Madison Meadows at a May 22 ceremony.
The students created a website that contains information about the project and the deliverables. Learn more at https://sites.google.com/madisoned.org/native-american-problem/home.