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Progress made on Little Shell Tribe’s new health clinic in Great Falls

Progress made on Little Shell Tribe’s health clinic in Great Falls
Progress is being made on the Little Shell Tribe’s new health clinic in Great Falls.
Posted at 2:13 PM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 17:19:38-05

GREAT FALLS — Progress is being made on the Little Shell Tribe’s new health clinic in Great Falls.

The Tribe purchased the building that formerly was Best Friends Animal Hospital on Smelter Avenue NE in the spring of 2020 and has been working to renovate it ever since.

As of Tuesday, interior demo work was complete.

The Tribe’s health director, Molly Wendland, said the clinic will provide whole-person care as well as some traditional care and traditional medicine.

"We're working on getting the design phase completed and then we're going to start from there, getting permits, and go from there,” Wendland explained. "We're so excited. We were just recognized in December of 2019 and the council, the members, we've just done some great things.”

The clinic is expected to open by the end of the summer.

(MAY 22, 2020) Little Shell Tribe leaders say they want to use $25 million they received in federal coronavirus relief funding for an urgent care clinic in Great Falls. The money comes from the recently-passed CARES Act. According to the tribal council, the funding offers an opportunity to jumpstart a much-needed healthcare option for the tribe.

Right now, the closest Indian Health Services locations are in Box Elder or Browning, more than 100 miles away from Great Falls.

Chairman Gerald Gray says tribal citizens deserve quality healthcare where they live, especially when it comes to addressing behavioral health and offering preventative care. He said in recent conversations with the IHS, they learned it would take at least a decade to build a healthcare facility for the Little Shell, if they waited on current federal funds.

“As a tribe, we are basically starting from scratch,” Gray said. “You know, from the ground up. We have nothing. Definitely, in terms of healthcare, nothing. So this is really going to be a big boost for the Little Shell Tribe.”

According to Gray, the bulk of the money will be for the urgent care clinic, which would serve both members and non-members, but they’re also going to address testing, telemedicine, medical transportation, and distribution of supplies.

Gray said they’ve hired legal counsel and a certified public accountant to help them follow guidelines for using the funding. According to the CARES Act, tribes must spend the money before December 30th, 2020. Eventually, Gray said, their goal is to build a hospital in Great Falls.