Southcentral Foundation (SCF), with tribal partners Chickaloon Village Traditional Council and Knik Tribal Council, celebrated the early completion of the Valley Native Primary Care Center, Benteh Nuutah, (VNPCC) â€“ which will be open for its Alaska Native and American Indian customer-owners on Aug. 29 â€“ with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by partners and supporters on Aug. 1.
The Alaska Native and American Indian population in the Mat-Su Borough is expected to nearly double over the next decade – growing at a much faster rate than the general population. There are currently about 5,000 Alaska Native and American Indian customer-owners in the Mat-Su Borough. By 2013, that number is expected to grow to 8,500. Population has dictated the critical need for this new, full-service primary care center.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 put the mechanisms in place so SCF could work collaboratively with Chickaloon Village Traditional Council and Knik Tribal Council to help fund improvements to health care in areas where there are shortages. In 2009, the Valley Native Primary Care Center Joint Operating Board, consisting of representatives of Chickaloon, Knik and SCF, was formed.
“We have worked in close collaboration to grow from a small clinic to a primary care center that would truly meet the needs of the peoples of Knik and Chickaloon and other customer-owners living in the Mat-Su Valley and surrounding areas,” said SCF President/CEO Katherine Gottlieb. The name Benteh Nuutah translates to “among the lakes, among the islands” and honors Knik’s Denai’ina Athabascan and Chickaloon’s Ahtna Athabascan peoples.
Growing from a 5,457-square-foot leased space in a strip mall in Wasilla, the new 84,000-square-foot facility, located at the corner of Knik-Goose Bay Road and the Palmer-Wasilla Highway, expands primary care, behavioral health, dietary, radiology, and pharmacy services. Other services – such as dental, optometry, audiology, laboratory and expanded behavioral health care – will be phased in as operational funding becomes available through the Joint Venture Construction Program agreement with the Indian Health Service. The facility will eventually house 60 exam rooms and 28 talking rooms. Additionally, the vision for the on-site Wellness Center includes fitness machines, physical therapy space and an aerobics studio.
The VNPCC opening is the result of support from partners who share Southcentral Foundation’s commitment to health and wellness. The Indian Health Service (IHS) awarded Southcentral Foundation a Joint Venture Construction Program agreement. The USDA funded $40 million in direct loan financing. The State of Alaska awarded $5 million in Fiscal Year 2013 funding. Rasmuson Foundation awarded $1.2 million to furnish and equip a 21-chair dental clinic. Mat-Su Health Foundation funded the new playground, exterior gathering area and walking path. Alaska’s Congressional delegation advocated for the Congressional allocation of the IHS staffing package under the Joint Venture Agreement. And Wells Fargo supported VNPCC with $10 million in guaranteed funding.
Project completion was originally set for October 2012. The early opening of the primary care center is largely made possible by the construction team, consisting of Neeser Construction, NBBJ, KPB Architects, and DOWL HKM.