STILWELL, Okla. (KFOR) – The Cherokee Nation unveiled plans to spend over $10 million on a wellness facility in Stilwell, the first major project under the tribe’s new Public Health and Wellness Fund Act.
The 50,000 square foot Carson Wellness Center will be built starting in 2022 on five acres of land near the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center. The land was donated by Jim and Drew Carson of Adair County, according to Cherokee Nation officials.
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. signed the Public Health and Wellness Fund Act in early 2021.
He also signed an executive order establishing the Cherokee Nation Task Force on Physical Wellness to assess existing physical wellness programs’ availability and effectiveness for Cherokee citizens throughout the tribe’s reservation. The Task Force also works to identify new program or facility needs to address gaps that may exist, according to officials.
Canaan Duncan, the Cherokee Nation’s senior advisor for public health, leads the task force.
“It is no secret that the Cherokee Nation has endured generational traumas that continue to weigh heavy on our families and our communities. On top of those traumas, far too many Cherokees have more recently fallen victim to the devastating struggles of addiction – and to make matters even worse, 19 months of the COVID-19 pandemic have increased stress, anxiety, and health concerns for many of our families. We must find every opportunity to help those who are struggling with their health and well-being,” Hoskin said. “Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and I worked with the Council of the Cherokee Nation to secure the Cherokee Nation Public Health and Wellness Fund Act, which we signed into law earlier this year. The Carson Wellness Center in Stilwell will be the first construction project to occur under this legislation which dedicates funds for these specific areas, and I cannot think of a more appropriate way to begin the monumental process of establishing places of health and healing for our citizens throughout the Cherokee Nation Reservation. Cherokees believe health care should treat the whole person, and this historic investment, starting with the Carson Wellness Center and the creation of the Cherokee Nation Task Force on Physical Wellness, will help us achieve a more holistic approach to health care for Cherokees.”
A Cherokee Nation Public Health study identified Adair County as a priority area when it comes to increasing access to physical activity in the tribe’s reservation.
Cherokee Nation Health Services treated over 2,000 patients in Adair County for physical therapy/rehabilitation, nearly 2,000 diabetic patients, 3,500 patients with hypertension and nearly 3,800 patients at risk for chronic health conditions during Fiscal Year 2021.
“Our public and behavioral health teams do a phenomenal job of caring for Cherokee citizens. I’ve said before that they always stay on the cutting edge of innovative treatment, prevention, and wellness efforts, and the Carson Wellness Center is going to give us even more opportunities to better the lives of Adair County citizens for generations to come,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “This is particularly important as we work toward finally overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. We know all too well that this virus has had a significant impact on the physical and mental well-being of Cherokees. When we finally feel secure that the pandemic is behind us, those negative impacts to our Cherokee families will still be here. Having this wellness center to help our Cherokee brothers and sisters overcome those barriers here in Adair County will be a game-changer, and this is just the beginning of more announcements to come.”