GREAT FALLS - With $25 million in federal money as a result of the Coronavirus Relief Fund, the Little Shell Tribe announced it’s looking at using a bulk of it to build their very own healthcare facility in the Electric City.
For years, members of the tribe had to drive all the way out to either Browning or the Rocky Boy Reservation if they wanted treatment specifically from Indian Health Services (IHS). According to Tribal Chairperson Gerald Gray, building a clinic would help streamline the process, increasing access to preventative care for members and non-members alike.
Services would include tests for COVID-19, telemedicine and medical or protective supply deliveries to name a few. Gray explains Little Shell is working with financial and legal experts to follow the right guidelines, as they figure out how to turn their plans into a reality.
With Native Americans on average living five years less than other racial groups according to IHS, Gray describes the project as a positive step in the door towards a system that treats community members for preventable diseases early on.
”Helping them prevent diabetes, you know, weight control so you’re not prone to any kind of heart attack. Just things like that,” said Gray, talking about a few treatment examples he’d like Little Shell again in the long run.
The tribe’s looking at either buying an existing building in the city or constructing one entirely from scratch for the facility. Specific costs are up in the air for now, and the tribe has until Dec. 30 to spend the money.
As the tribe works on getting that project off the ground, they’re giving members free drive-through testing sessions for COVID-19 on May 29 - 30 at their cultural center (1529 Stuckey Road, Great Falls) as partnership with Gov. Steve Bullock. Anyone interested can drive on over between 10:00 am to 3:00 pm on either day.
Little Shell’s expected to post more details about the event on their official Facebook page.