By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
A project to aid those in need of immediate help from mental health or addiction issues is in the planning stages. The design phase of the Crisis Stabilization Unit, which will be located at the old Cherokee Indian Hospital site and is part of the hospital’s Phase II Renovation, is going well according to hospital officials.
The renovation design plans were approved by Tribal Council in October 2016 to the tune of $1.7 million. Recently, the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority governing board approved McMillan Pazdan Smith as the architecture firm for the project.
Damon Lambert, Cherokee Indian Hospital director of engineering, said a recent meeting was held with the architects, engineers, and hospital officials to really kick-off the project. “That was really just to meet with the program and kind of figure out what their needs are. It’s been a couple of years since there was a detailed analysis on the project. So, we’re updating that analysis, getting new information, and moving forward with the design for the project.”
He noted that Analenisgi and the Recovery Center will be relocated to the facility in addition to the new Crisis Stabilization Unit as well as several hospital programs including housekeeping, maintenance, IT, and human resources. “Those type programs are still in the old building,” said Lambert. “They weren’t moved into the new facility, so that’s a major part of the project, giving them the space they need to function properly.”
Doug Trantham, Cherokee Indian Hospital Behavioral Health Department assistant director, commented that moving the behavioral health programs to the hospital campus will improve integration. “We’re already really integrated with medical, but some of us are going up and down the hill throughout the day, sometimes two or three times a day. And, the patients might have an appointment at the hospital and then have to come down here. So, we’d all be on the campus and that really helps us support the hospital and the hospital supports the behavioral health piece.”
He added, “It also reduces stigma and reinforces the value of these services and importance to them that they have a quality facility right on the hospital campus.”
Kristie Case, Analenisgi Behavorial Health recovery services manager, said, “With the Recovery Center program specifically, I think it will be great to be integrated with the rest of the hospital system as well. We have outgrown the space we have here, and we’re fairly limited in what we can provide here just because of the square footage limitations. We’re looking forward to us being able to develop a larger space up there; to do more services with folks and get more creative and offer that space for folks to engage in their recovery.”
The Analenisgi Recovery Center opened in the late fall of 2015 and is comprised of 11 modular trailers put together in one structure. Space has been and is limited. “This was a temporary solution,” said Trantham. “It was always viewed as temporary, but it allowed us to expand. We have presently filled it, and we’re pretty much out of space.”
He did thank the tribal leaders at the time for their support in the program moving from its previous space in a wing of the Tsali Care Center, and he’s anxious for their new move. “Moving into the old hospital will allow us, hopefully, to have room not only for existing services but to continue to expand services as well as make it much more efficient for patients to get both their medical needs and behavioral health needs met on the campus.”
Case related that program growth, including additional staff, is of vital importance. “We’re trying to project growth for the program over the next three to five years as we’re working with the architects. That’s something they’re really encouraging us to look at; not just moving, but the continued growth of the Behavioral Health program and the needs of the community.”
Trantham related the importance of the Behavioral Health program, “Individuals who have challenges with addiction, depression, or other psychiatric conditions are a vital part of the Cherokee community. They are our family members. True population health and prosperity cannot be achieved without addressing these issues. With the renovation of the old hospital, CIHA plans to emphasize the importance of behavioral health services by providing a quality facility on the hospital campus.”
The resolution to fund the design phase of the project was submitted by the late Lt. Col. (Ret.) Kina Swayney, an EBCI tribal member and member of the Cherokee Civil Action Team. After the funding was approved last October, Lt. Col. Swayney noted, “This is yet another step toward providing complete care for our people so we’re not relying on overcrowded systems. Our sovereign state gives us the capability to create a program that meets our cultural and spiritual needs while keeping the patient here, close to family. We are essentially ‘taking care of our own.’”