http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgRadiology technician Mandy Tucker explains how the new LOGIQ ultrasound and echo machine works on Nov. 5 at the tribe’s new Vinita Health Center in Vinita, Okla. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Radiology technician Mandy Tucker explains how the new LOGIQ ultrasound and echo machine works on Nov. 5 at the tribe’s new Vinita Health Center in Vinita, Okla. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Vinita Health Center officially opens its doors

Charlie Ferguson, laboratory supervisor, talks about the different equipment available in the new lab, including this machine that’s used to check hemoglobin A1c tests among other blood tests from patients, at the new Vinita Health Center in Vinita, Okla. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation Health Services Director Connie Davis discusses the positive impact the Vinita Health Center will have on CN citizens in the area during a Nov. 5 grand opening for the center. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Charlie Ferguson, laboratory supervisor, talks about the different equipment available in the new lab, including this machine that’s used to check hemoglobin A1c tests among other blood tests from patients, at the new Vinita Health Center in Vinita, Okla. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Former Reporter
11/13/2012 08:52 AM
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
VINITA, Okla. – Although it’s been taking patients since Sept. 4, Cherokee Nation officials and area residents gathered on Nov. 5 at the tribe’s new Vinita Health Center for its grand opening.

After remarks from CN officials, people were given tours of the $35 million clinic located at 27371 S. 4410 Road. The 92,000-square-foot facility is equipped for primary care, including a full pharmacy, lab, radiology and dental, as well as optometry services.

According to CN Communications, the previous tribal clinic in Vinita was a 4,000-square-foot facility. However, the new center means more doctors and services offered to the area.

Prior to the event, Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the Vinita Health Center’s construction would mean a lot to area CN citizens.

“It puts a clinic in the northeastern portion of the Cherokee Nation,” Baker said. “Since doing the soft opening (on Sept. 4), they’ve added over 500 new charts, and I think it will double and triple the services that we’re able to do up in this part of the Cherokee Nation.”

He added that the facility would take a burden off of CN citizens and other Native Americans who travel long distances to receive health care.

“I think we already found out that people are going to come in from Carthage, Mo., and Joplin, Mo., and from up in Kansas,” he said. “They’re Cherokees, but they haven’t had a facility to come to and now that we got it, I think they’re going to come.”

The grand opening was held in the center’s community gathering space, which can be rented for meetings and family gatherings starting at $25 with a $100 deposit, not including kitchen space.

Health Services Director Connie Davis said the Vinita Health Center’s staff is committed to its patients.

“It’s very clear that the people that are here working are not here for the money because they could make a lot more money driving about 70 miles down the road,” Davis said. “The people here are committed to serving the people and that’s the most important thing. I think that should give you a vote of confidence when you come in here they’re not here because it was a last choice.”

Dist. 4 Tribal Councilor Chuck Hoskin Jr. also commended the tribe’s new facility.

“Well it is a wonderful day to be a Cherokee in Vinita, Okla., ” he said. “Cherokees built this community, they’re still building it today.”

CN officials said the new clinic should bring 125 jobs, with more than 90 percent of those hired being Cherokee. They added that the Vinita Health Center is just a beginning to the improvements they plan to make to CN health facilities. In October, the Tribal Council approved a plan to raise about $80 million to expand or replace health centers and the W.W. Hastings Hospital.

Other facilities to be replaced or renovated are the Bartlesville Health Center, Sam Hider Community Health Center in Jay, Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell, Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw, Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee and the Jack Brown Center in Tahlequah.



01/19/2018 10:00 AM
VINITA — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma’s Mobile Assistance Center is hosting an education and enrollment event from 1 to 6 p.m. on Jan. 22 at the Craig County Fairgrounds and Community Center located at 915 E. Apperson Road. Tribal citizens and all individuals who attend this free come-and-go event are invited to visit with BCBSOK representatives to receive assistance with their health insurance questions and needs. Tribal citizens have the ability to enroll in coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace at any time, outside of the standard Open Enrollment period. Tribal citizens can also visit to see if they qualify for available financial assistance to help lower the cost of monthly payments. In some cases, this financial assistance may cover the full premium cost. Customer service support will also be available for current members who may have questions about their coverage. “The Affordable Care Act provides American Indians with opportunities to compare and buy health insurance in a new way,” said BCBSOK President Ted Haynes. “Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma wants to help people understand their options so they have an opportunity to enroll and choose a plan that’s right for them.” To learn more about how to protect their health and finances and save on monthly payments, individuals may attend one of the MAC events, contact an independent, authorized BCBSOK agent, or call BCBSOK’s dedicated customer service representatives and product specialists at 855-636-8702. To see the full schedule of MAC events, <a href="" target="_blank">click here</a>. For additional information about health plans and pricing, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>
01/10/2018 12:00 PM
STILWELL – The Cherokee Nation is working with nine schools in Adair County to promote healthier lifestyles for students. Cherokee Nation Public Health provided more than $50,000 total to Maryetta, Stilwell, Greasy, Rocky Mountain, Zion, Bell, Cave Springs, Peavine and Dahlonegah public schools through its School Health Leadership Award program. Each school received $5,700 in 2017 to start programs related to fitness or healthy eating. Adair County is home of the largest population per capita of CN citizens. “It is important to instill healthy lifestyle habits, including diet choices, in our youth at a very early age,” Tribal Councilor Frankie Hargis said. “I’m thankful the tribe can help these school systems implement programs that will provide the resources needed to demonstrate these habits to youth in Adair County.” Additionally, CNPH was selected by the state in 2017 as a Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust grant recipient for Adair County. With $230,400 in grant funding, the tribe is helping Adair County schools create health initiatives to reduce tobacco use and childhood obesity. Dahlonegah Public School, for example, received $1,500 in TSET funds from the tribe to improve the school’s walking trail and buy additional fitness equipment. Dahlonegah Superintendent Jeff Limore said noticeable changes are happening. “We have been able to teach our students about not only staying active, but to make healthy choices,” he said. For more information on TSET, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. For more information on CNPH, 918-453-5600.
01/09/2018 04:00 PM
CATOOSA – The Indian Health Care Resource Center’s annual dinner, dance and auction, “Dance of the Two Moons.” will be held March 10 in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa located at 777 W. Cherokee St. This year’s honorary chairs are Jill and Terry Donovan of Rustic Cuff and Interior Logistics, respectively, as they help lead a Wild Wild West-themed party to thank Circle of Life Community Partner and Tiger Natural Gas for helping the center build healthier, stronger lives for Native youths. Rusty Meyers Band, an Oklahoma country music artist, will provide the music. The event’s featured artist is Brandi Hines of Agitsi Stained Glass. This year’s presenting sponsor is Public Service Company of Oklahoma. Additional sponsors include Tiger Natural Gas, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Oklahoma, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations, Meeks Group, Interior Logistics and Carmelita Skeeter. Griffin Communications (News On 6 and Tulsa CW) is the 2018 Media Sponsor. The dinner and auction was established 28 years ago as an annual fundraiser to help support Tulsa’s Native American youth. Proceeds from the event support many of IHCRC’s youth programs such as the Restoring Harmony Powwow, Youth Spring Break Camp, Running Strong Run Club and youth summer wellness and cultural camps. Tickets are $150 per person or $250 per couple. Sponsorship levels are available ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. For more information or to purchase a sponsorship or tickets, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. IHCRC is a nonprofit organization funded through state and federal grants, private foundations and donors as well as fundraisers and a contract with Indian Health Services. Utilizing a patient-centered, multidisciplinary, medical home approach, IHCRC offers a full range of health and wellness services tailored to the Indian community. Services include medical, optometry, dental, pharmacy, transportation, behavioral health, health education and wellness, substance abuse treatment and prevention and youth programs focused on traditions, health and leadership skills. With more than 18,000 active patients representing in excess of 152 tribes, IHCRC provides more than 125,000 patient contacts each year to improve the general health status and reduce the incidence and severity of chronic disease of the urban Indian community. Call Deb Starnes at 918- 382-1203 or email <a href="mailto:"></a> for more information.
01/02/2018 12:00 PM
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the release of the Tribal Behavioral Health Agenda, a collaborative tribal-federal blueprint highlighting the extent to which behavioral health challenges affect Native communities. The agenda also includes strategies and priorities to reduce these problems and improve the behavioral health of American Indians and Alaska Natives. According to the HHS, American Indians and Alaska Natives represent 2 percent of the total U.S. population (6.6 million people), but experience disproportionately high rates of behavioral health problems such as mental and substance use disorders. In addition, these communities’ behavioral health needs have traditionally been underserved, the HHS states. Mental and substance use disorders – which may result from adverse childhood experiences, historical and intergenerational trauma and other factors – are also reflected in high rates of interpersonal violence, major depression, excessive alcohol use, suicide and suicide risk, HHS officials said. Overall, these problems pose a corrosive threat to the health and well-being of many American Indians and Alaska Natives, HHS officials said. “This new initiative represents an important step in our government-to-government relationship and gives American Indian and Alaska Native tribes a greater role in determining how to address their behavioral health needs with urgency and respect,” Kana Enomoto, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration principal deputy administrator, said. The Tribal Behavioral Health Agenda blueprint includes the following tenants: • Provides a clear national statement about the extent and impact of behavioral health and related problems on the well-being of tribal communities, • Recognizes and supports tribal efforts to incorporate their respective cultural wisdom and traditional practices in programs and services that contribute to improved well-being, • Establishes five foundational elements that should be considered and integrated into existing and future program and policy efforts, and • Elevates priorities and strategies to reduce persistent behavioral health problems for Native youth, families, and communities. Findings from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicate that adult (ages 18 and older) American Indians and Alaska Natives had experienced higher rates of past year mental illness compared with the general population (21.2 percent versus 17.9 percent). Similarly, American Indians and Alaska Natives ages 12 and older had higher levels of past year illicit substance use than the general population (22.9 percent versus 17.8 percent), the survey states. According to the agenda, its framework is organized around the f0llowing elements that provide content and direction for collaborative efforts: • Focusing on healing from historical and intergenerational trauma, • Using a socio-cultural-ecological approach to improving behavioral health, • Ensuring support for both prevention and recovery, • Strengthening behavioral health systems and related services and supports, and • Improving national awareness and visibility of behavioral health issues faced by tribal communities. “The IHS is committed to improving behavioral health care for the American Indian and Alaska Native people by using the Tribal Behavioral Health Agenda to integrate care within community health systems,” IHS Principal Deputy Director Mary L. Smith said. “This agenda recognizes that successful and sustained behavioral change requires cultural reconnection, community participation, increased resources, and the ability of those serving American Indian and Alaska Native populations to be responsive to emerging issues and changing needs.” The agenda also includes the American Indian and Alaska Native Cultural Wisdom Declaration, which acknowledges that cultural wisdom and traditional practices are fundamental to achieving improvements in behavioral health. In addition, the agenda uses historical and current contexts for developing the recommendations that form the blueprint. It also incorporates shared priorities and strategies that can be addressed by tribes, federal agencies, and other entities working together. According to the HHS, tribal leaders called for improved collaboration with federal agencies to address behavioral health challenges. The agenda is the result of consultation among tribal leaders, the SAMHSA, IHS and the National Indian Health Board. “Tribal leaders and stakeholders provided meaningful and comprehensive input to create the Tribal Behavioral Health Agenda, which will be a valuable tool and resource to address the critical behavioral health needs we see across Indian Country,” NIHB Executive Director Stacy Bohlen said. HHS officials said the agenda honors the relationship the U.S. government has with federally recognized tribes and reflects effective government-to-government interactions. They said the agenda’s development was based on identifying the perspectives of tribes while building strategies based on their shared values and beliefs.
01/02/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With construction following a February groundbreaking on the Cherokee Nation’s new health facility near W.W. Hastings Hospital, tribal officials are now planning for employment for when it’s completed in September 2019. The outpatient and primary care facility, which Indian Health Services awarded to the CN, is one of the largest joint venture agreements between a tribe and IHS, according to a CN press release. Once completed, the facility will be the largest health center of any tribe in the country at approximately 470,000 square feet and four stories high. It will serve as the primary health care access point for American Indians and Alaskan Natives residing in the Tahlequah service area. The facility will feature five surgical suites and two endoscopy suites inside its ambulatory surgical center. It will house a specialty clinic and feature 33 dental chairs, six eye exam rooms and three audiology-testing booths. Space will also be expanded for rehabilitation services, behavioral health and a wellness center. During the past several months, construction crews have transformed 45 acres into the health center’s beginning stages. So far concrete foundations have been poured and steel structures are going up. As a result, 350 construction jobs have been created. “I don’t think we can overstate the amount of payroll dollars this thing has. We are working with our TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Office) contractors and TERO sub-contractors to keep as much of that payroll in our community as we possibly can. You can see the number of trucks going in and out of here and the impact it has,” Brain Hail, W.W. Hastings Hospital CEO, said. Hospital officials meet with architects and contractors monthly for construction updates, and Hail said the expansion is being designed to “accommodate” staff and patients. “The staff has done a really good job of responding to questions quickly during the design phase, so we can get the design phase completed. We also have done mockups so the facility will be constructed to accommodate the staff that is using it,” he said. “We also try to be very focused on the patients’ experience to make sure they don’t have to walk any further then absolutely necessary, especially our elders.” With regards to a proactive patient experience, he said parking would significantly increase at the facility. Hospital officials are also in the planning phase for hiring staff. With a larger facility and additional services, the facility will require an additional 800 health care professionals. Hail said the hospital is working with the tribe’s Education and Career Services departments to prepare a work force for the facility’s opening. “We are trying to be proactive with Education and Career Services to make sure they’re aware of the needs that we are going to have when we open the new facility so they can start adjusting their scholarships, start adjusting the training they provide and start getting ready to prepare our workforce for the facility. We also have our offices of professional recruitment and retention aware of what we are going to need, so they can be recruiting people now and getting them ready to join us when we open,” he said. While the center’s opening less than two years away, positions in certain areas will be needed as early as six months to a year prior to the opening. Those areas include information technology, environmental services, facilities management and security. To ensure those positions are secured before the opening, Hail said officials are requesting early funding. With Hastings Hospital being more than 35 years old and approximately 180,000 square foot, it was designed to serve 60,000 patient visits annually. However, in 2016, the hospital saw nearly 400,000 patient visits, and in 2017 it handled more than 500,000 patient visits. As patient visits increase, Hail said officials are planning for the future with the new facility. “The current facility is in need of expansion and modernization to serve current and future demands,” he said. “We are basically working for a 20-to-25-year timeline to try to anticipate what we need for the next 20 to 25 years in health care and the community.” Officials are also planning for the future through recruitment and a partnership with the Oklahoma State University Center for Health and Sciences to expand its medical school to Tahlequah. Inpatient operations, emergency services, labor and delivery decks, diagnostic imaging and pharmacy will remain at Hastings Hospital. And the medical school will occupy Hastings’ remaining space after the new facility is finished. “We are doing everything that we can to try and expand the number of professionals that will be available to us. What everyone sees is where people train is where they tend to stay, so we want to train as many people in our area so they stay in the area,” he said.
12/08/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation physician Dr. James H. Baker was recently awarded a Mastership through the American College of Physicians for his contributions. According to ACP, “Election to Mastership recognizes outstanding and extraordinary career accomplishments and achievements, including the practice of internal medicine, academic contributions to our specialty, and service to the College.” During review of candidates, the ACP’s Awards Committee considers several qualities, including strength of character, perseverance, leadership, compassion and devotion. Clinical expertise and commitment to advancing the art and science of medicine are also taken into account by the committee. “I am so honored to receive this award from my peers and colleagues at the American College of Physicians,” Bake said. “I thank our Oklahoma ACP Chapter of 1,000 internal medicine physicians and medical students for nominating me.” Baker, of Muskogee, is a general physician with more than 30 years of experience. He serves as medical director for CN Three Rivers Health Center and the tribe’s Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center. Baker completed medical school at the University of Oklahoma in 1982 and completed his internal medicine residency at Kansas University in 1987. The mastership is the third award Baker has received from the ACP, including the Meritorious Service Award in 2014 and the Laureate Award in 2015. He is a former governor of the Oklahoma chapter of ACP and a current member. The ACP will honor 2017-18 master recipients at the organization’s annual convention in April 2018 in New Orleans. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.