With drums, blessings and thanksgivings, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe dedicated a new medical clinic they said has been more than 20 years in the making.
“We are living the dream of our ancestors,” tribe Chairman William Iyall said during the dedication ceremony. “We’re working hard to achieve what they started so long ago.”
“It’s a good day for (the) Cowlitz. It’s a happy day,” said Cassandra Sellards-Reck, chairwoman of the tribe’s health board. “We strive for wellness for all our members and this clinic will help with that.”
The Cowlitz Tribe was not federally recognized until 2000, but officials said the tribe’s health care program began as a dream in the 1990s.
Eventually the tribe would like to offer dental, pharmacy and x-ray services, but for now the building will house primary care space, mental health treatment areas and a separate chemical dependency unit.
The 12,000 square-foot clinic is located directly behind the existing tribal administrative building at 1055 Ninth Ave., Longview. Work began in 2009, but the building’s completion was delayed as plans were redesigned several times to squeeze as much space as possible out of the site, said Steve Kutz, chairman of the tribal council and manager of the medical clinic.
The clinic has four exam rooms and a treatment room on the primary care/mental health side. Space also is reserved for a three-chair dental clinic, though officials are still trying how to make that service profitable before offering it, Kutz said. There also is a meeting space, which has been sorely needed.
“We were double and triple bunked over there,” Iyall said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long, long time.”
The building features native artwork, large murals of trees and nature scenes and carvings by tribe member Robert Harju, who also has carved canoes for the tribe.
The nearly $3 million building was paid for with a $1.13 million grant from the federal Indian Health Services agency and $500,000 from the federal Housing and Urban Development department. The remaining costs were covered by the tribe with health care dollars.
The medical clinic has 1,400 active patient files, including both Cowlitz tribal members and members of other tribes. Federal regulations require the tribe to provide medical care for any eligible member of other federally recognized tribes, Kutz said. The goal of the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Health Clinic is to provide a Holistic Approach to Health Care that promotes Disease Prevention, Treatment, and Education.