The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 1, 2014

Tribe breaks ground on health clinic

JAY, Okla. — Cherokee Nation officials broke ground last week on a 42,000-square-foot health clinic for Jay that they said will expand access to health care for tribal members.

The $13.5 million clinic will replace the 26,000-square-foot Sam Hider Health Center, which is one of the oldest in the tribe’s health care system. The new clinic will offer primary care, dental, optometry, radiology, behavioral health, public health nursing, pharmacy with mail order, laboratory, nutrition, WIC, contract health and diabetes care. The tribe also is adding physical therapy to its services offered in Jay.

The clinic, which will be near the intersection of U.S. Highway 59 and East Melton Road, is part of a $100 million health care initiative the tribe announced last spring. The money also will help fund a new clinic in Ochelata and expand existing clinics in Stilwell and Sallisaw, and a new hospital in Tahlequah. The Cherokee Nation operates the largest tribal health system in the United States, consisting of eight health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah.

Harley Buzzard, Cherokee Nation tribal councilor for District 10, said the new clinic will help meet the health care needs of the tribe’s members in a timely fashion.

“I think this is truly going to make a huge improvement in the lives of our people,” Buzzard said. “We’re going to have more programs and more providers, which will help cut down on wait time for those seeking care. This is going to be better health care for everyone involved.”

Several members of the tribe’s head council were on hand Monday for the ceremonial groundbreaking, including Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker.

“The clinic in Jay was one of the first health centers operated by the Cherokee Nation. ... But it’s time for an upgrade,” Baker said during the ceremony. “Our citizens in Delaware and nearby counties have received wonderful care but have dealt with cramped conditions for too long. I’m happy that we are finally able to make a meaningful investment in our health system that will impact the lives of so many. It’s long overdue, and our citizens deserve it.”

Baker also said that the $100 million investment in tribal health care comes directly from the tribe’s casino profits.

Buzzard said that while tribal members will benefit directly from the new clinic, he expects that surrounding communities will see economic growth both during the construction phase and after it opens.

“This will be a great asset to the people of Jay as it is going up because of local construction jobs that will increase, and then you will see more people coming through Jay as support for the center, which will generate revenue in local businesses,” Buzzard said. “It really is a winning proposition and one that we needed to happen.”

Work’s start

CONSTRUCTION on the new Cherokee Nation health clinic in Jay, Okla., is expected to begin this spring, with a projected opening date in early 2015. The current health center in Jay employs nearly 100 people and served more than 80,000 patients in 2013.

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