CSKT expands tribal health clinic in Polson

2010-09-01T23:00:00Z CSKT expands tribal health clinic in PolsonBy VINCE DEVLIN of the Missoulian missoulian.com
September 01, 2010 11:00 pm  • 

POLSON - The new three-story, 23,000-square-foot Tribal Health Clinic the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes built here is impressive, perhaps most so to those familiar with the little 1,800-square-foot facility it replaced.

"You could fit the old building in the waiting room of this one," Kevin Howlett, director of CSKT's Health Department, said Wednesday as the tribes opened the building up to tours for the afternoon.

"This facility is more than just a building," Howlett went on. "It's a statement to the enduring confidence we have as a tribe in working toward our own destiny. Health care is a critical part of that."

Where once the tribes offered a pharmacy and some dental services, they now can provide full outpatient medical services.

The pharmacy and dental services have been doubled, and they've added the medical clinic with X-ray machines and exam rooms, a physical therapy department, an optometrist and mobile MRI and mammography equipment.

It's all representative, Howlett said, of a significant change in how the tribes here view health care.


"For many, many years we provided health care by buying it from the private sector," Howlett explained. "That's not illogical - provided you have unlimited resources."

Why, Howlett asked, send revenue out the door that the tribes could be bringing in?

"Health care is customer-driven, but it's also a business that happens to be the biggest business in this country," he said. "The Salish and Kootenai people are not antiques stuck in time. We're committed to the future, to building our capacity to respond to modern issues, including health care."

This $2.7 million facility joins tribal clinics in Arlee, St. Ignatius, Ronan and Elmo.

And revenue generated by those funded this.

"Before we turned one shovel of dirt, this building was paid for," Howlett said, through monies brought in to the tribes from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance payments for health services offered at the other clinics.


Another $1 million in staff was added with the opening of the new clinic - where Howlett is in the process of hiring a second physician - it too paid for from revenues generated through the other clinics.

The federal Indian Health Service contributed $400,000 to the purchase of $1 million in new equipment for the clinic.

Indians eligible for tribal health care are free to select any provider, and so far, Howlett said, 40 percent of the 11,000 people eligible have chosen to make CSKT their primary provider.

Howlett's department now employs 146 people and has an operating budget of $15 million annually, a figure that does not include Medicare or Medicaid payments.

The new clinic in Polson has been seeing patients since it opened in April following a traditional blessing

by Salish and Kootenai elders.

Wednesday afternoon's open house, Howlett said, was simply a chance for community members curious about what was inside the big new building in downtown Polson to see for themselves.

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at (406) 319-2117 or at vdevlin@missoulian.com.


Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on Missoulian.com

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian (Missoulian.com) may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in Missoulian.com's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on missoulian.com.

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Search our events calendar