Office of U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06)
Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee advanced new federal funding that has been championed by U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) to help two Native American Tribes on the North Olympic Peninsula improve health care options for community members and ultimately strengthen health outcomes.
The funding for the Makah Indian Tribe aims to help the tribe expand and relocate the critical medical services of the Sophie Trettevick Indian Health Center out of the Tsunami Inundation Zone and meet the needs of their growing population.
The funding for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe aims to help the tribe advance the planning and development phases of the Lower Elwha Klallam Health and Wellness Complex, which will provide access to a wide range of high-quality, culturally sensitive services for tribal members, and additional health and social services to the broader community.
“Native communities in our region and across our country have consistently struggled to deliver essential health services and programs to support reservation residents,” said U.S. Representative Kilmer. “The federal government has an obligation to fulfill its trust and treaty responsibilities and to make sure that people have the resources they need to live healthy lives. That’s why I’m proud that the Appropriations Committee has made progress this week to provide critical funding to advance projects that will make a big difference for tribes on the Olympic Peninsula. I’ll keep pushing to get this funding signed into law.”
“The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe has been awarded $1.9 million for site planning, design preparation and initial construction stages of the Lower Elwha Klallam Health and Wellness Complex. The Health and Wellness Complex will be constructed on the 40-acre campus that houses the current Lower Elwha Health Department buildings. This funding will be the catalyst for enhancing prevention-focused care and optimizing long term health outcomes for the tribe, the surrounding tribes that utilize health-care services at the Lower Elwha Tribe, and the Port Angeles community. Most importantly, it will provide renewed energy and opportunity for young tribal people to mitigate chronic disease that has historically plagued Native communities. The Lower Elwha Health and Wellness Complex has been a dream of many tribal members and employees for quite some time. Planning was started 15+ years ago by a group of committed tribal members who have continued to advocate for this project over the years. With the support of tribal leadership, the work of key employees, and the voices of community members, this dream can now begin to be realized by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal People,” said Frances Charles, Tribal Chairwoman for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.
“This funding will support the relocation of our only healthcare facility out of the Tsunami Inundation Zone and a connectivity shadow, which is a long-term priority of the Makah Tribe. The pandemic has underscored the importance of the resilience of our local healthcare systems and infrastructure,” said Chairman Timothy J. Greene, Sr., Makah Tribal Council. “This is not only an investment in the health of the Makah people, but an investment in community and climate resilience, disaster preparedness, and continuity of care. The relocation of the Clinic will also include a much-needed expansion in services to meet the healthcare needs of our growing tribe and will create several new jobs.”
Studies show that greater access to high-quality preventive, curative, and rehabilitative health and wellness services is the key to healthier individuals and healthier communities. This is especially true for rural, historically-underserved populations, including Native American communities — which historically experience significant health disparities, disproportionate disease burden, and lower life expectancies.
The development project for the Lower Elwha Klallam Health and Wellness Complex is in its initial stages. The site for the Health and Wellness Complex will be on the 40-acre campus on Highway 101, just west of the City of Port Angeles, where it will be co-located with the existing facilities of the Lower Elwha Family Health Clinic and Klallam Counseling Services for Chemical Dependency. The Lower Elwha Health and Wellness Complex aims to provide easier access to a wider range of high-quality, culturally-sensitive services and provide the same proven short- and long-term benefits for the current and future members of the communities they serve.
Currently, the Sophie Trettevick Indian Health Center Clinic (STIHC) for the Makah tribe provides health care services to 2,600 active users for an annual total of 29,000 outpatient visits across all services. These services include family practice, dental care, immunization clinics, women’s health, youth preventive services, mental and behavioral health and substance abuse support programs, X-ray and laboratory services, nutrition and fitness services, physical therapy, and many more. However, the current facility is increasingly insufficient to meet the needs of the tribe’s growing population. In addition, the Makah Reservation is located adjacent to the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which is vulnerable to a potential earthquake and associated tsunami.
The new federal funding aims to help the tribe advance the long-term priority of the Makah Tribal Council to expand and relocate STIHC outside of the Tsunami Inundation Zone and better meet the needs of the community. Investments in the Makah Tribe’s health care infrastructure are both essential from an equity and public health standpoint, as well as consistent with the federal trust obligations under the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay. This project aims to provide much-needed expansion of health care services, build community resilience by incorporating climate change and disaster preparedness into core infrastructure, and creates new permanent jobs in an area of high unemployment.
Rep. Kilmer led the effort to secure funding for the project through the House Appropriations Committee’s Community Project Funding process. The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s project is supported by the City of Port Angeles and Clallam County Health and Human Services.