The Suquamish Tribe recently completed primary construction of its new health clinic with the installation of six prefabricated modules that will create the 4,116-square-foot facility.
The new clinic will be called Healing House, həliʔilalʔtxʷ, and is expected to open its doors in early 2022, a news release says. As crews shift to finishing the interior and installing new medical equipment, the clinic’s director says staffing is now the top priority.
“Building a new facility is no small matter, but the real challenge will be finding the right mix of top-notch health care providers who will turn this building into one of the best health clinics in the area,” said Stephen Kutz, who was hired by the tribe in August to help set up the clinic.
Kutz joins the tribe as health director after leading the Health and Human Services Department of his Cowlitz Tribe. Before that, he was director of the Mason County Health Department. All that came after serving for 20 years as a nurse in the U.S. Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.
“This is a chance to be part of a clinic from the beginning, to help it form. It will be a place where you can grow as the clinic grows,” Kutz says. “And health care providers can expect something that isn’t always available — time to get to know their clients.”
The Healing House will serve Suquamish Tribal members as its first priority, but the facility eventually will open up to the community, Kutz says.
The clinic’s approach will build on the hospitality and traditions of the Suquamish people, the release states. Family medicine, with a focus on prevention, nutrition, plus an atmosphere infused with tradition and culture, will offer healthcare designed for physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
“We’ll be treating the family, from elders to newborns, honoring the people where they are,” Kutz says. “That means allowing Indian people to receive the health care they deserve.”
Providing prevention and treatment for the whole community will be core focus, Kutz says. That means enhancing the things that make people feel well and healthy, and contribute to resilience — things that build on the community’s strengths like the annual intertribal Canoe Journey and other cultural gatherings, as well as traditional foods and medicines.
“We care about the community that we are serving,” Kutz says. “We’re going to hire people who see this as more than just a job — people who care about the people they are taking care of.”
Preventative care will be central, with dietician services, and a focus on prevention of diabetes and other chronic diseases, especially those that are most common among Native American people. In addition to clinic staff, the tribe’s WIC (nutrition for women and children) will be located at the clinic along with the tribe’s community health staff.
Tribal officials say staff at the Healing House will see up to 30 patients per day. The tribe is already planning to further expand its health care facilities in the coming years.