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Tribally-run nursing home in the works for Comanche Nation

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CACHE, Okla. – Funds from the Comanche Nation’s four casinos could spur a goal of opening a tribally-run nursing home for elders and meet Oklahoma state home care standards, tribal members said at a community meeting March 19.

More than three dozen Comanche Nation citizens met at the Coahoma Community Center to discuss the tribe’s need for a nursing home. Keith Yackeyonny, Comanche tribal member, led the meeting and assured those attending that the tribe generated enough from its gaming operations to sufficiently fund a nursing home.

“I hear you saying we need a nursing home, but we’re not going to pay for it with our per cap(ita),” he said.

If realized, the tribally-owned nursing home could be the first of its kind among the state’s 37 federally recognized tribes. The tribe presently operates the only tribally-run funeral home among state tribes. But talk of a Comanche-run nursing home has been discussed for years, attendees said.

“We’re certainly doing things Comanche-style. … when we need something we say, ‘Let’s go get one,’” he said. “We do things without an overall plan and we don’t have any long term vision.”

Some of those plans include putting the nursing home on land near the former Ft. Sill Indian School near Lawton jointly owned by the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache tribes, or putting one within municipal limits at 38th Street and Lee Boulevard; another plan includes purchasing 40 acres of land. While most wanted the nursing home, opinions varied on specifics.

“That’s not what the old folks want (of purchasing land),” said Carol Hall, Comanche elder’s council member.

Yackeyonny said the tribe’s Comanche Business Council could approve putting more money into its 20 percent fund for the project. The issue could also go to the tribe’s general council meeting where all tribal members can vote. “The tribe could change the amount it sets aside and get upward of 25 percent to build the nursing home.”

Other plans would be to care for tribal elders, but leave it open for other tribes while taking federal Medicare payments, officials said.

Meanwhile, all of the nursing home plans hinge on gaming revenues. In the tribe’s 2010 proposed $42 million budget, about $253,000 is earmarked for the nursing home project.

Comanche officials are forecasting $40 million in gaming contributions to fund the 14,000-member tribe’s operations. Around $15 million is set aside from the tribe’s gaming revenues for its annual per capita distribution.

“This money doesn’t exist until we earn it,” Yackeyonny said.

The nursing home issue could become pivotal as the tribe prepares for its campaign period in June. Current tribal chairman, Wallace Coffey, will step down after two consecutive terms in accordance with Comanche Nation law.

Tribal officials said the Comanche nursing home will be a project built in phases and initial plans are for a center with 20 beds, though no architectural plan has been released. A resolution on a nursing home funding proposal is scheduled to be drafted and presented at the general council in April.