To take a walk around through Old-Town Kenai toward the new Dena’ina Wellness Center is to see time and geography slowly compressed into one building.
The concrete foundation, exposed conduit and steel frame construction has given way to 66,000 feet of 92-year-old cannery wood, beach grasses leading up to a rock and agate-edged central meeting place as bright colors give way to darker accents and colors reminiscent of mountains in the distance.
The 52,000-square-foot facility will provide primary care, dental and family services for about 5,000 patients, said Jaylene Peterson-Nyren, executive director of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe.
The new wellness center is scheduled to have its grand opening in June, though Peterson-Nyren said some services would be available before then.
The $36 million facility, located on Mission Avenue behind the tribe’s Tyotkas Elder Center, is expected to create 50 new jobs and bring in about $200 million in federal funds to the Kenai area in the next 20 years.
When the facility opens, Peterson said health practitioners will be pioneering an inclusive kind of medical treatment that will involve medical, dental, behavioral health specialists, chemical dependency, physical therapy, pharmacy and traditional healing services professionals will work in teams to treat each patient.
An Indian Health Service Joint Venture award, given in 2011, will pay to operate the health care facility.
The tribe agreed to design, construct and equip the building under its agreement with IHS, according to its website.
Thus far the tribe has received more than $10 million in federal appropriations to pay for staff and operations of the new facility during its first year and should be funded for a minimum of 20 years.
During its opening, Peterson-Nyren described the project with the Dena’ina word Naquantughedul, or “The tide has turned and we are truly coming back to ourselves, our culture and who we are.”