Wellness center project on schedule

Kenaitze Indian Tribe plans for new health facility to open next year

Construction on the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s new 52,000-square foot Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai is on schedule, and already the building is so large it is a major landmark from the air, said Jaylene Peterson-Nyren, the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s executive director.


“Every time I give an update,” said Peterson-Nyren, “I go to Old Town (Kenai) and it’s two steps ahead.”

The steel for the first and second floors of the center — located on Mission Avenue behind the tribe’s Tyotkas Elder Center — is installed and steel for the building’s gathering space is also set, she said. In the next month the walls and roof will go up.

Peterson-Nyren said the center’s doors will open by winter 2013.

The $35 million building will house all of the tribe’s existing health services — dental care, mental health and primary care services, for example — while adding an enhanced pharmacy and optometry, physical therapy, traditional healing, lab and imaging services.

“It’s kind of a one-stop for all of your health and wellness services,” Peterson-Nyren said.

The Rasmuson Foundation will contribute $750,000 for furniture and facility equipment, according to its website.

Programs sponsored under the Behavioral Health Alaska grant will be free to the community. Peterson-Nyren said that includes family services and drug and alcohol treatment, for example.

When the facility opens next winter, it will usher in 50 new jobs in its first year operating. The building will also have 108 employees and draw more people seeking service, Peterson-Nyren said.

“It will revitalize a lot of the Old Town economy,” she said.

The tribe’s services have been located for more than 20 years in the city’s strip malls, and Peterson-Nyren said the tribe has needed a larger space for a long time.

Peterson-Nyren said the health center will change the shape of Old Town Kenai. The building will provide a gathering space for the tribe that can hold about 200 people.

“It’s a nice, wide-open, well-windowed space,” she said.


Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com


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