Cherokee Nation to Expand Services with New Vinita Health Center

February 25, 2011

The Cherokee Nation recently hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for a new 91,000 sq. ft. health care center in Vinita. Pictured l-r: (back row) Tribal Council Member Chuck Hoskin, Jr., Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith, and Miss Cherokee Brooke Hudson, Tribal Council Member Chris Soap and Tribal Council Member Bill John Baker. Pictured front row: Little Miss Cherokee Ambassadors Chenoa Turtle and Chelbie Turtle.

VINITA, Okla.— More than 100 local officials and community residents joined with Cherokee Nation officials to celebrate the groundbreaking for the new Unadiwisdi (Where They Get Well) Health Center last Thursday in Vinita. The new 91,000 square-foot facility will bring additional health care services and more than 90 new jobs to the area. 

“Many years ago we established our long range health care plan and worked with the federal government on joint venture projects, and now we are the largest tribally operated health care system in the U.S.,” said Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. “In the past 10 years we provided more than 3.4 million patient visits at our facilities, taking a tremendous burden off city, county and state health organizations. This new clinic here in Vinita will be here for the long haul.” 

The $30 million project is a joint venture with Indian Health Service. The Cherokee Nation will pay for the construction of the center and IHS will help fund the operation of the center when opened. The facility will offer many health care services, including outpatient medical services, pediatrics, dental, optometry, physical therapy, pharmacy, laboratory, radiology, nutritional services, mammography, public health nursing, Women Infants Children (WIC), health promotion and disease prevention, contract health, and behavioral health. 

In addition, the facility will include areas for community use such as an exercise room, a demonstration kitchen and a community meeting space. An area outside will be available for community stickball games.The center will also offer translation services for patients needing health care instructions in the Tsalagi (Cherokee) language. 

Many of those in attendance said they never thought they would live to see the day the Cherokee Nation would build a comprehensive health care facility in Vinita. Jim Gardner, a Cherokee elder from Vinita, was one of those individuals. 

“In my wildest imagination I never thought I would see a Cherokee health facility here in Vinita. This will bring health care and jobs to our area,” Gardner said. “Every resident and business owner should be here celebrating with us today. This is truly a wonderful thing for our city.” 

The center will have a theme based on the Civil War and post war recovery era in the Cherokee Nation, predating the time of Oklahoma statehood. The building’s architectural design will reflect the 1877-1917 era of reconstruction and industrialization of the Cherokee Nation in the Vinita area. Construction of the building is scheduled to begin soon with a scheduled completion date of summer 2012.