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
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
11/13/2012 08:52 AM
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.

jami-custer@cherokee.org


918-453-5560

About the Author
Reporter

Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007.

She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. 

Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. 

She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. 

“My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.
jami-murphy@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Reporter Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007. She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. “My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.

Health

BY SHEILA STOGSDILL
Special Correspondent
02/04/2016 02:00 PM
JAY, Okla. – It is estimated that most visits to Cherokee Nation’s medical clinics are diabetic related, a tribal health official said. In 2013, Principal Chief Bill John Baker promised to invest $100 million of casino profits to better the health care and the lives of the Cherokee people. When the initiative was launched Baker said, “Our financial success belongs to the Cherokee people.” The heath care of CN citizens was and still remains a top priority. “There have been many medical success stories,” said Connie Davis, executive director of Health Services, referring to the $100 million initiative. Diabetic care was just one of the many medical conditions problems CN officials wanted to address with the health initiative, she said. “Over 50 percent of the health care visits to our clinics is diabetic related,” Davis said. National data states diabetes affects 25.8 million people, more than 8 percent of the country’s population. And of that number, 7 million people are undiagnosed. It is the seventh-leading cause of death for individuals in the United States, according to national data. “The tribe’s care for diabetic and the A1C program exceeds national averages,” Davis said. The A1C test measures the amount of glucose in a person’s blood over three months. The higher the number means the person’s diabetes is out of control. An A1C level of 14 percent means the estimated average blood sugar level is around 355. Most diabetic patients strive for an AIC number of 6, an estimated blood sugar level of around 126. The tribe is working to beat the national average of 6, Davis said. The tribe also collaborated with the University of Oklahoma and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to eradicate Hepatitis C within the tribe, Davis said. “No one in the United States is doing this,” she said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that affects the liver. Most people become infected with the virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. For some people, it is a short-term illness but for 70 to 85 percent of infected people, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, according to data released by the CDC. The tribe has also earmarked a large chunk of the $100 million for buildings. The CN operates a network of eight health centers and one hospital throughout its jurisdiction. “Half of the money went to new clinics and clinic expansions,” Davis said. Some of those improvements included expanding the Wilma Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell and the Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw. Other projects included the construction of a new 28,000-square-foot Cooweescoowee Health Center in Ochelata and the ongoing construction of a new 42,000–square-foot Sam Hider Health Center in Jay. An Indian Health Service Joint Venture Construction program increased the Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee to more than 100,000 square-feet and is the largest center in the CN health system. Another joint venture with the IHS will build a new 450,000-square-foot medical center in Tahlequah. The new hospital will replace the 30-year-old facility, W.W. Hastings Hospital, which serves more than 400,000 patient visits annually. Hastings averages 4,600 hospital admissions, 13,000 inpatient days, 1,000 newborn admissions and more than 350,000 visits annually, according to the tribe’s website. The tribe also has plans for a partnership with Oklahoma State University to recruit, train and hire Cherokee doctors. The tribe’s other clinics are the Will Rogers Health Center in Nowata, A-Mo Health Center in Salina and the Vinita Health Center, which is the first to offer an on-site Wellness Workout Center. Baker spoke before the U.S. House Interior Appropriation Subcommittee in 2014 about how a joint venture with the CN would benefit many citizens. Innovative programs, such as a joint venture, can help reduce the $2.2 billion health construction backlog, according to his testimony. “The Affordable Care Act has been great for tribes,” Amanda Clinton, CNB Communications and Govern director, said. She added that many tribal citizens have been able to obtain extremely low-cost insurance under the Affordable Care Act, some for just pennies on the dollar. “Many of these patients never had insurance prior to the Affordable Care Act.” Most CN health centers offer medical, dental, lab, radiology, public health, WIC, nutrition, contract health, pharmacy, behavioral health, optometry, community health service and mammography. The Jack Brown Center in Tahlequah serves CN citizens who may be struggling with an alcohol or drug dependency.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/03/2016 02:00 PM
STILWELL, Okla. – A carved maple tree statue titled “Perseverance” designed by five Cherokee artists was unveiled and dedicated on Jan. 24 in the lobby of the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center. The Cherokee Nation commissioned the piece to enhance the entrance of the 28,000-square-foot Mankiller Health Center addition that opened in 2015. “We have a new world-class health care facility in Stilwell that is serving the needs of the Cherokee people, in the spirit of the way Chief Mankiller served our tribal nation. Local Cherokee artisans created a beautiful piece commemorating her leadership, and we are proud to showcase this new sculpture as it welcomes future patrons and visitors into the clinic’s lobby,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “It represents the strength and courage of the Cherokee people.” The nearly 12-foot tall statue is adorned with three turtles exceeding boundaries and expectations by climbing a tree, representing the Cherokee people. The turtles represent striving toward the goals and ideals set by Cherokee ancestors. Stones at the base of the statue represent the difficult paths that the ancestors walked. The statue represents principles of the Cherokee people and former Principal Chief Mankiller: goals of community, prosperity and working together. At the top of the statue sits a pearl-inlaid butterfly, representing Mankiller, who lived in the Rocky Mountain community near Stilwell, and her hopes for the bright future of the Cherokee people. Mankiller served as principal chief from 1985-95. She died on April 6, 2010, at her Adair County home in Oklahoma at age 64. A group of Cherokee artists – Devon Tidwell-Isaacs, Daniel Flynn, Roger Cain, Shawna Cain and Reuben Cain – which goes by Stilwell I.T., said the statue symbolizes the Cherokee people’s endurance to overcome and ability to prosper. “It is very important that we realize we need to be strong as a community and that while we face a lot of hardships and difficulties and obstacles that we are perseverant and resilient as a people, and this artwork is a testament to those qualities,” Tidwell-Isaacs said. The statue also has a carved quote from Mankiller in the trunk of the tree. It states, “The secret of our success is that we never, never give up.” Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center employees donated rocks from local communities for the base of the statue. The maple tree used for the statue is from Asheville, North Carolina, part of the Cherokee people’s original homeland.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/02/2016 04:00 PM
OKTAHA, Okla. – Nine-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Abby York has a genetic mutation called Glucose Transporter Type 1 Deficiency Syndrome or Glut1 DS that impairs brain metabolism. She was diagnosed with it at age 6, and Allen York, Abby’s father, said that to his knowledge about 1 in 90,000 births develop the disorder. He said his daughter was behind as an infant on meeting all of her developmental milestones. “She was delayed with walking, talking, feeding herself and potty training. When she did start walking she was very unsteady. She had to wear a helmet to protect her from a brain injury due to she would lose her balance and fall all of the time,” Allen said. “She had her first seizure when she was 2 years old. This progressed to her having 20 to 30 absent seizures a day.” After seeing specialists, running blood work, computerized tomography scans and MRIs, nothing could give the Yorks a diagnosis. After three years, Allen said her second pediatric neurologist found a combination of four anti-convulsing medications that stopped the seizures. “We were excited that the seizures had finally stopped, but we were worried about the long-term side effects of her using these medications,” he said. “Our neurologist recommended that we take her to a movement specialist in Fort Worth, Texas. This doctor ran many more tests and we finally got a diagnosis of Glucose Transporter Type 1 Deficiency Syndrome.” By this time Abby was 6 years old. “She was hospitalized in Fort Worth for a week where they ran more tests and started her on the ketogenic diet, which is the only approved treatment at this time for Glut1,” Allen said. Since the deficiency is incurable, diet is the only way to fight the disorder. The diet needs to be a high-fat, moderate-protein and low-carbohydrate one that causes the body to produce and burn ketones for fuel in the absence of glucose, according to <a href="http://www.g1dfoundation.org" target="_blank">g1dfoundation.org</a>. “Abby’s life has changed drastically since getting her diagnosis and starting her on the diet. She can read, run and play with her friends. She has been seizure free and off all of the anticonvulsants for almost two years,” Allen said. “She is in her age-appropriate class and is doing pretty well in school. She is an excellent reader, but numbers and logical thinking are a struggle for her. We spend extra time at home working on her problem areas. Even though she still has, and will always have some struggles, this diagnosis has really been a miracle for our family.” According to g1foundation.org, Glut1 is the principal transporter of glucose, the primary source of energy, across the blood-brain barrier. If one cannot transport the glucose properly he or she can show signs such as seizures, movement disorders, speech and language disorders and developmental delays. “There are currently a few hundred patients diagnosed worldwide, but experts believe there are thousands more yet to be discovered,” the website states. The Yorks, to raise awareness and improve the lives of other families affected by this disease, host a yearly event in November that includes a 5K, fun run and lunch. “In hopes that others can be diagnosed at an earlier age than our Abby,” he added. “All proceeds from our fundraiser are donated to the Glut1 Deficiency Foundation. This is an all-volunteer foundation made up of parents just wanting to help others.” For more information, email Allen at <a href="mailto: glut1neok@gmail.com">glut1neok@gmail.com</a> or visit <a href="http://www.g1dfoundation.org" target="_blank">www.g1dfoundation.org</a>.
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
Special Correspondent
12/29/2015 08:15 AM
TULSA — Law enforcement officers with the Bureau of Indian Affairs are getting additional tools to help deal with prescription drug abuse in Indian Country. Officials with the BIA, Indian Health Services and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy announced a memorandum of understanding on Dec. 16 at the Indian Health Resources Center that will allow for the training of BIA officers on how to identify opioid and heroin overdoses and administer an atomized dosage of naloxone. Upon completion of training, officers will be authorized to carry doses of the synthetic drug. If used in time, naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose by counteracting the drug’s depression of the central nervous and respiratory systems, thus allowing the user to breathe normally. The pilot program, which will include Oklahoma-based BIA officers, involves an eight-hour training course. An estimated 230-240 officers are expected to participate in the initial rollout, with the potential for tribal law enforcement officers to be added later on. Officials with the BIA and IHS did not have a concrete timeline for when the training would start in 2016, nor did they have a figure on all of the costs associated with the IHS-funded program. “This is critical in our tribal communities that tend to be more remote and where health care is farther away,” BIA Director Mike Black said. “Our police officers are often the first responders to a scene and many reservations nationwide do not necessarily have immediate access to an around the clock emergency room.” As per the MOU, 91 pharmacies at IHS operated facilities nationwide, including Claremore Indian Hospital and eight other Oklahoma sites, will be authorized to distribute the drug to BIA officers. Pharmacies operated under a tribal self-governance agreement, such as those at the Cherokee Nation’s facilities, are not required to participate in the program. However, Dr. Susan Karol, the chief medical officer for Indian Health Services, said tribally-operated pharmacies would be welcome to participate as well. Cherokee Nation’s Health Department did not respond by deadline as to whether any plans are in place to have its pharmacies participate in the program. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the rate of opioid abuse-related deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives nationwide has increased almost four-fold since 2009. Data collected by IHS indicates that the rate of drug-related deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives is almost double that of the general population. Opioid painkillers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone, are responsible for three-fourths of all prescription drug overdose deaths. “We know we need a comprehensive response to this,” said Michael Botticelli, the White House’s Director of National Drug Control Policy. “In terms of reducing the overprescribing of prescription drugs, ensuring that treatment is available is critically important. But none of this is sufficient if people die and if we don't save their lives to be able to get them into care and treatment.”
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
12/17/2015 08:15 AM
WASHINGTON – Applications for the Indian Health Service’s 2016 summer externships are now being accepted and will be accepted until Jan. 15. According to <a href="http://www.ihs.gov" target="_blank">www.ihs.gov</a>, the IHS offers scholarship recipients, as well as other health profession students, the opportunity to participate in a hands-on instructive experience that will complement the knowledge and skills developed in school. “This experience will help to enhance pre-professional training, while also familiarizing yourself with Native communities that are of interest to you when you begin your health professions career,” the website states. Externs are employed for 30 to 120 workdays per calendar year during non-academic periods, the site states. It also states that externs receive a salary based on experience and years of academic training that is comparable to industry standards. “IHS will waive your salary if the externship fulfills a required academic field placement or an internship, in which case it will instead pay all required tuition, fees and regular monthly stipend for scholarship students only,” the site states. For travel, externs must a Request for Extern Travel Reimbursement (IHS-856-18) form to request reimbursement for one round trip to the externship site before travel is planned. “IHS authorizes travel reimbursement based on federal regulations for travel and transportation allowances,” the website states. “If a travel advance is required, contact your Area Scholarship Coordinator and the IHS Area office, Service Unit or health clinic where you are assigned. Do not, under any circumstances, travel without authorized travel orders.” Externs are also responsible for finding their own housing, according to the website. “ Your Area Scholarship Coordinator or the local site can provide that information to you. You are eligible to receive a minimal allowance for transportation of goods, but IHS must provide advanced authorization on your travel orders,” the website states. “Please stay in touch with your Area Scholarship Coordinator and Extern Coordinator to verify all of your arrangements before traveling to the externship site.” To apply, applicants must be United States citizens, enrolled in an eligible health profession degree program and in good academic standing with a 2.0 grade point average or above. According to the website, funding for the IHS Extern Program is limited and selections are based on the needs of the Indian health program. The priority listing of those eligible for the program are: • Health professions scholarship recipients, • Health professions students (non-recipients) who are American Indian or Alaska Native, • Non-American Indian/Alaska Native health professions students (non-recipients), and • Preparatory or pre-graduate scholarship recipients. An applicant for a summer 2016 externship must provide a current transcript and an OF-306 at the time of application to be referred to a hiring official. They must also submit the application at <a href="https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/420539600" target="_blank">https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/420539600</a>. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.ihs.gov/scholarship/ihsexternprogram/" target="_blank">http://www.ihs.gov/scholarship/ihsexternprogram/</a>.
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
12/14/2015 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – Applications for the Indian Health Service’s 2016 summer externships are now being accepted and will be accepted until Jan. 15. According to www.ihs.gov, the IHS offers scholarship recipients, as well as other health profession students, the opportunity to participate in a hands-on instructive experience that will complement the knowledge and skills developed in school. “This experience will help to enhance pre-professional training, while also familiarizing yourself with Native communities that are of interest to you when you begin your health professions career,” the website states. Externs are employed for 30 to 120 workdays per calendar year during non-academic periods, the site states. It also states that externs receive a salary based on experience and years of academic training that is comparable to industry standards. “IHS will waive your salary if the externship fulfills a required academic field placement or an internship, in which case it will instead pay all required tuition, fees and regular monthly stipend for scholarship students only,” the site states. For travel, externs must a Request for Extern Travel Reimbursement (IHS-856-18) form to request reimbursement for one round trip to the externship site before travel is planned. “IHS authorizes travel reimbursement based on federal regulations for travel and transportation allowances,” the website states. “If a travel advance is required, contact your Area Scholarship Coordinator and the IHS Area office, Service Unit or health clinic where you are assigned. Do not, under any circumstances, travel without authorized travel orders.” Externs are also responsible for finding their own housing, according to the website. “ Your Area Scholarship Coordinator or the local site can provide that information to you. You are eligible to receive a minimal allowance for transportation of goods, but IHS must provide advanced authorization on your travel orders,” the website states. “Please stay in touch with your Area Scholarship Coordinator and Extern Coordinator to verify all of your arrangements before traveling to the externship site.” To apply, applicants must be United States citizens, enrolled in an eligible health profession degree program and in good academic standing with a 2.0 grade point average or above. According to the website, funding for the IHS Extern Program is limited and selections are based on the needs of the Indian health program. The priority listing of those eligible for the program are: • Health professions scholarship recipients, • Health professions students (non-recipients) who are American Indian or Alaska Native, • Non-American Indian/Alaska Native health professions students (non-recipients), and • Preparatory or pre-graduate scholarship recipients. An applicant for a summer 2016 externship must provide a current transcript and an OF-306 at the time of application to be referred to a hiring official. They must also submit the application at https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/420539600. For more information, visit http://www.ihs.gov/scholarship/ihsexternprogram/