Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center celebrates 10th anniversary
RENO, Nev. — Having worked in health care for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony for nearly 40 years, Connie Wyatt decided to celebrate her career journey and the 10-year anniversary of her Tribe’s health center in a unique way.
“I always wanted to sit in a dunk tank for a good cause,” Wyatt said. “I checked off an adventure from my bucket list and helped build a festive air at our party.”
A behavioral health or a mental health assistant, back in 1980, Wyatt worked at the old clinic. More than most, she can speak to the growth and progress to today’s Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center.
“I remember the first staff of the clinic and how small we were back then,” Wyatt recalled. “At the time of my hiring, I was in Washoe Medical Center when two community members on the RSIC Health Board brought me the application for my current job, and that was it. I was released from Washoe Medical Center and a week later, I started working for RSIC and still hold the same job.”
Even though her title has changed many times since September of ‘80, Wyatt has held the same position all these years later. Wyatt said that she has many memories of all the work she has been blessed to do.
“I am thankful for the community sharing their lives with me, “Wyatt said. “It has been an adventure.”
That adventure continued on Aug. 10, 2018, at the 10th anniversary celebration for the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center, which featured outdoor activities like a wading pond, a photo booth, ring toss, carnival foods, and a hula-hoop contest.
The event’s indoor activities, meanwhile, were much more reflective. The formal program included a prayer and song by elder Janice Gardipe and hand drumming and singing by Toby and Jaime Stump.
RSIC Chairman Arlan D. Melendez addressed a crowd of about 100 onlookers and he chronicled the origins and the recent success of the RSTHC.
Chairman Melendez explained that in order to meet the health needs of our growing Tribe, over a decade ago, our leadership sold $16 million in bonds that were backed by our Tribal business enterprises in order to build this state-of-the-art facility.
Accordingly, a decade ago, RSIC Tribal members and local Urban Indians had just clinical services. Sick patients could only visit a three-room, cinder block structure, with Indian Health Services-provided staff.
Today, the carefully designed, Native-inspired architecture of the 65,000-square-foot facility at 1715 Kuenzli St. in Reno is home to about 150 employees, over half who are Tribal members or Native Americans from other federally recognized Tribes.
Three years ago, the RSTHC recorded over 5,000 patient encounters in a number of specialties, including: adult medicine, pediatrics, laboratory services, comprehensive dental care for children and adults, substance abuse services and counseling, pharmacy, eye care, nutrition, diabetes care and prevention, acupuncture, chiropractic, cardiology, podiatry, physical therapy, injury prevention for elder and youth, women’s health, community health services and education, and in-home services.
Plus, the wide-ranging equipment and programs offered through the 3Nations Wellness Center considerably broaden the spectrum of patient offerings.
According to Chairman Melendez, in the last decade, the business operations of the health center have been so successful that the Tribe has paid off its debt service through third party billing.
Plus, Chairman Melendez said that with nine years left of loan payments — which were just recently refinanced at a very low rate — coupled with the RSIC’s strong financial history, the fiscal outlook at the RSTCH and the entire Colony is solid.
Furthermore, the RSIC Archives and Records Department designed a telling timeline with historical photographs and information about historical milestones achieved in Tribal health care.
“The event was a huge success,” said Teri Larson, the RSTHC Budget Analyst who took on the organizing duties for the celebration. “We had numerous divisions of the health center and about 10 other departments collaborate with us, so this was an excellent example of RSIC team work.”
This article first published in the RSIC’s monthly newsletter, The Camp News, in its August 2018 edition, and is republished by First Nation’s Focus with permission. Visit http://www.rsic.org/rsic-newsletter to read the full story.
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