STILWELL – Cherokee Nation leaders on Oct. 19 announced plans to build a multi-million dollar, 50,000-square-foot wellness center in Adair County as part of the tribe’s Public Health and Wellness Fund Act.
“This is an investment of $10 million,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. told a gathering of tribal and city leaders at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell. “But I submit to you all that the return on the investment can’t be measured in dollars. We know people who come in here, get healthier and lead healthier lives will be more productive. They will cost our health system less, and the quality of life for the people who use this facility will go up.”
Hoskin added that many Cherokees are “struggling with health conditions that we could improve if we give them access to ways to exercise and to eat better and get physically fit.”
“These are important concepts that we need to embrace more fully within our health system, and we are going to do that,” he said.
The future facility, named in honor of the late Mary L. (Holland) Carson, an original enrollee, will be constructed on five acres next to the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center.
“I can’t say enough thanks to the Carson family, who have donated the land,” Hoskin said. “This is a family that has committed so much of their lives to improving this community and this county.”
Jim Carson spoke on behalf of the family.
“I just think the idea is fabulous,” he said of the center, “and like the original Wilma P. Mankiller clinic, it’s sorely needed. Cherokee Nation brings things to Adair County we just would not have.”
Hoskin also unveiled a CN Task Force on Physical Wellness.
“This task force will help us develop not only the programming that goes on at this facility, but future facilities, future programs, future opportunities to work in the community on wellness,” he said before signing an executive order establishing the committee that will be led by former Dist. 7 Tribal Councilor Canaan Duncan.
During his remarks, Dist. 8 Tribal Councilor Shawn Crittenden pointed to past Adair County representatives such as Frankie Hargis and S. Joe Crittenden who lobbied for health initiatives in Adair County.
“We’ve all talked about this,” he said. “I’m just so grateful to see what working together can do. Health and wellness, that’s the foundation of everything good for our people. It’s been said before, if you don’t have your health, you know, what do you have?”
The $10 million investment is part of the CN Public Health and Wellness Fund Act passed by the Tribal Council on March 15. The act allows the tribe to spend up to $12 million annually to provide citizens with access to substance abuse treatment and wellness centers. The act relies on a portion of third-party revenues collected by Cherokee Nation Health Services annually.
According to the tribe, the act earmarks 7% of the unrestricted revenue generated by CNHS, including health insurance claims or billings to health insurance carriers and providers. Revenue collected under the act can be used for capital investments and operational expenses for substance abuse treatment facilities and wellness centers.
On Oct. 19, Hoskin also announced plans for a Kenwood activity center named after first language Cherokee speaker Woodward “Woody” Hair, who died in 2020 at age 91.
“We need to, at the Cherokee Nation, invest across the reservation in communities big and small,” Hoskin said. “In Kenwood, we’ll be building a facility that has a basketball facility and other aspects of physical wellness. It won’t be on the scope of this facility (in Stilwell), but it’s an example of what I’m talking about where we can bring physical wellness opportunities to other parts of our reservation.”