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'The ball is rolling'

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Feds take steps toward new tribal health center in Yuma

YUMA, Ariz. (AP) - Federal officials are taking the first steps toward building a new health center for American Indian tribes in the Yuma area.

Officials are predicting that a facility could be open by April 2011.

''The ball is rolling,'' said Wes Picciotti, public affairs liaison in the IHS office in Phoenix.

IHS determined in 1988 that the Fort Yuma Indian Hospital would require a total replacement because the historic buildings are too old, too small and deteriorating quickly, according to IHS officials.

Instead of a hospital, the new facility would be a modern clinic serving the Quechan and Cocopah tribes, as well as any other person registered as an American Indian.

Officials with local tribes are celebrating what they call long-awaited good news.

''This is the most attention the hospital has ever received and it's been decades since a new hospital was built,'' said Liz Pratt, director of communications for the Cocopah Indian Tribe. ''The tribe is very pleased that it's gotten to the point that it has.''

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