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Ewiiaapaayp deal on expanded Alpine area health facility

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ALPINE, Calif. - The Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians have signed an agreement with the Southern Indian Health Council, Inc. (SIHC) that will consolidate and eventually expand the health facility and allow the tribe to build a casino on the existing grounds.

This complex deal also allows for the expansion of a second health facility in the town of Campo some 30 miles from Alpine. The Alpine site has three, separate facilities which cover some 26,000 square feet on approximately eight acres.

Under the new deal the three health facilities, which include separate buildings for medical, mental health and childcare will be consolidated into a single 38,000 square foot facility that will sit on approximately two acres of the existing land.

The existing facility at the nearby Campo Reservation will be expanded from 2,000 to 8,000 square feet as part of a smaller expansion.

The Ewiiaapaayp or Cuyapaipe as they prefer to call themselves will then use the remainder of the land for a new gaming operation. Some of the projected profits from the gaming operation have been earmarked to help the expansion of the Alpine and Campo facilities. Nearly $100 million in projected profits are supposed to go the medical facilities over the next 15 years.

Joe Bulfer, executive director of the health council, says that federal dollars will still be needed to run the facilities once they are up and fully operational. He indicated more federal dollars might be required to adequately run the facility.

Bulfer also says the new facility is only a temporary measure until a much bigger facility can be built. The tribe and the health council are looking at acquiring an additional 20 acres to be put into trust for an even bigger medical facility.

"The most important thing to point out is that there will be no interruption in service during the expansion. Everybody wins, " says Bulfer.

The new Alpine medical facility will have a separate entrance from the casino as to not mix traffic and will offer expanded service such as ophthalmology, more primary care and the possible addition of a free-standing urgent care center. A new physician probably will be included in the expansion as well.

Dr. Richard Sablove, who works as one of three physicians at the facility, says he is excited about the expansion of services. He points out that the Alpine facility is nearly 30 miles from the nearest hospital and fully 50 percent of the patients are non-Indian. The Manzanita, Campo and La Posta bands and other nearby Indian groups also use the facilities.

"This expansion is not only good for the tribe it also services the general community," Sablove says.

Ewiiaapaayp Councilman Michael Garcia says it was fairly easy to get the proposal through. While there was initial dissent from some of the nearby reservations, most of the problems were of a smaller nature, he said.

"Most of the problems were of an architectural and mechanical nature, though there were other voices of dissent. The final say-so was that the Southern Indian Health Council decided this was best," Garcia says.

Garcia points out that the 15-year projected sum offered by the tribe equals nearly 70 percent of the total the federal government has spent on Indian health clinics in the last 20 years - $148 million in that period of time.

The tribe is doing its own environmental assessment on the land which is expected to be completed in a few weeks.

The Southern Indian Health Council Inc. is a consortium of seven tribes that include the Barona, Campo, Ewiiaapaayp, Jamul, La Posta, Manzanita and Viejas Bands of Kumeyaay.