Meet Natalie Christopherson, Tribal Liaison at CHPW.
Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW) was created to provide access to care for people not being served by mainstream health insurance options. Today, almost 30 years into this work, we know there is still much more to be done.
Natalie Christopherson leads a vital part of these efforts, in the role of Tribal Liaison.
As an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, this position is much more than a job to me—it’s a connection to culture, community, and friends. Being an Urban Indian can be challenging, as I am far from my homeland and miss out on events and activities. I have found getting to know the Washington State tribal members a blessing, and being invited to their lands and activities is such a gift.
– Natalie Christopherson, Tribal Liaison at Community Health Plan of Washington
We asked Natalie a few questions so that our community can get to know her and her work.
How long have you been with CHPW? What’s your current role?
Osiyo! (“Hello” in Cherokee.) I am Natalie Christopherson, from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. I have been with CHPW in the role of Tribal Liaison since late 2018.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in health care?
Like many, I chose a career in health care to help others. My background is in behavioral health and the juvenile justice system. As the Tribal Liaison, I am able to continue helping underserved populations and communities.
What has you excited about working at CHPW?
I am excited to be a part of CHPW’s commitment to advance health equity.
Engaging in the work with our many tribal healthcare providers, it didn’t take long to realize that there were many gaps between the long-established Indian healthcare delivery system and the managed care system. It’s the old saying, “A square peg in a round hole.”
CHPW has taken the approach to change our ways, policies, and procedures to help us fit in with the Indian healthcare system, rather than expecting our tribal providers to change their system for us.
CHPW is currently working closely with the Washington Health Care Authority (HCA) to address contractual requirements that are causing barriers for American Indian and Alaska Native members to access specialty care services. We are confident that necessary changes will be made, and tribal sovereignty will be upheld.
- A managed care organization (MCO) is a type of health plan. MCOs focus on offering benefits and services that are low cost, high quality, and appropriately used (not too much or too little).
- Tribal sovereignty refers to the authority of Native tribes to self-govern. Enrolled members of AI/AN tribes have specific rights from the United States—including the right to health care—based on treaties made with their tribal government.
What is something you recently learned or accomplished that you are proud of?
I never want to stop learning. If you stop learning, you stop growing. I have met those people… they are not fun!
I’m currently working on becoming a Master Angler. To do this in Washington requires catching a state-record size fish. Once the catch is officially documented, you can then carry the title of Master for that species of fish. I am going for several titles!
When I am not out making fish fear me, I have started classes to learn my native Cherokee language.
What is your favorite season in the Pacific Northwest and why?
I live in the Columbia Basin, almost the center of the state, and we experience drastic season changes that are beautiful and enjoyable. My favorite season is spring… when the fishing season opens!