After years of poor health services, the Northern Arapaho tribe took over the management of their health clinic from the federal government. Last week the Wind River Family Community Health Center celebrated its first anniversary.
Indian Health Services received an extra $2.4 million from the Northern Arapaho Tribe so the facility could run completely independently. Back in April, Northern Arapaho councilman and former Indian Health Services CEO Richard Brannon said, after years of trying to take over the clinic, he was ready to give up. He says even after the tribe signed a contract with the government legalizing the hand off, they still hadn’t taken over control of the building or the health records.
“What we have been doing this whole year is building our system from the ground up,” said Brannon. “What we are doing today is celebrating that we did survive.”
The Arapahoe tribe’s health clinic was once the lowest funded service unit in the Billings area office. Now, after a full year as an independent service provider, the Wind River Family and Community Health Center has hired 44 new people and are successfully meeting payroll and operational costs.
Brannon says he hopes the new clinic can eventually combat some of the serious health disparities in his tribe, like high rates of diabetes and heart disease.
"I prayed to God and what He told me is to take a leap of faith,” said Brannon. “There has been enough suffering, enough abuse, enough pain and sorrow for the Arapaho people, you have to do it He said. And that is why we are here today."
The Wind River Family and Community Health Care Center celebrated with song and prayer by Falcon Drum Group and a presentation by culture teacher Mary Ann Headley.