The decades-long dream of an integrated health care facility for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe is now a beautiful reality in Old Town Kenai. Last week the community joined in a three day dedication and celebration of the uniquely designed Dena’ina Wellness Center. The building incorporates many historical materials including century old woods reclaimed from the Wards Cove Cannery on the south bank of the Kenai River. The use of colors and textures reflects the Kenaitze region beginning with the ocean shore and beach gathering space into the forest in exam rooms and the mountains on the second floor dental area. Tile work on some of the interior walls are influenced by traditional Dena’ina beadwork designs. “I’m so grateful to be here today celebrating the grand opening of a facility that has been forty years in the making,” said Jaylene Peterson-Nyren, executive director for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe.
The 52,000 square foot building on 4 acres features 15 exam rooms, 4 treatment rooms and 4 consultation rooms, 6 classrooms and a demonstration kitchen. “We worked hard to design the facility to be a space that is open and welcoming and we wanted people to want to be in the Center, we want people to want to be well. I overheard elders visiting the other day and they hadn’t seen each other in years and then one of their nephews came in and sat next to them that they hadn’t seen in a while and they sat and had a long visit and that is what health and wellness is about, it’s about community and taking care of each other looking out for one another and taking responsibility for their own health and wellness and it was very nice to see that already happening here at the Center,” explained Nyren. The Center is open 7:00am – 7:00pm Monday through Saturday to the Alaska and American Indian community with behavioral health and chemical dependency services open to all people, “We are the local behavioral health provider for the State of Alaska in Kenai so we encourage people to come in and learn about what we have to offer. We are thankful to the community for their support now and in the future as we work to fulfill our mission to assure the Kahtnuht’ana Dena’ina thrive forever. The Dena’ina Wellness Center will play a key role in achieving this mission,” she added.