Cherokee Nation showcases newest health center in Ochelata

May 4, 2015

(L to R) Cherokee Nation Management Resources Executive Director Bruce Davis, January Hoskin, Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and daughter Jasmine, Tribal Councilor Lee Keener, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell, Tribal Councilor Dick Lay and grandson Cody, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Cooweescoowee Health Center Administrator Brandi Payton, Cherokee Spiritual Leader Crosslin Smith, Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis, Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor, Cherokee Nation Businesses Senior Vice President Chuck Garrett and Health Services Deputy Executive Director Dr. Charles Grim.

$10M facility opens this month

OCHELATA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation held an open house at its new $10 million Cooweescoowee (prounounced coo-WEE-scoo-WEE) Health Center in Ochelata on Monday.

The 28,000-square-foot facility, trimmed in cedar and with art highlighting the historic significance of the area, is five times larger than the existing Bartlesville Health Center it replaces. The Bartlesville Health Center offered family medicine and limited pharmacy and lab work. The new health center offers a much wider variety of services.

“Tribal citizens in northwest portions of the Cherokee Nation can now drive down the street to get an X-ray, see an eye doctor or visit a dentist. That saves time and gas money because they no longer have to drive to our centers in Vinita or Nowata for complete health services,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “This new health center also helps foster growth in the community of Ochelata. New retail outlets have opened, and the town’s Main Street was recently paved. Those are signs of community progress.”

The facility carries historic Cherokee Nation Principal Chief John Ross’s Cherokee name, Cooweescoowee, which is a type of bird. Ross is the longest serving chief of the Cherokee Nation, leading the Cherokees from 1828 to 1866 and across the Trail of Tears. Cooweescoowee is also the name of the northwestern historic district of the Cherokee Nation.

“What a great day in the Cherokee Nation,” said Tribal Councilor Dick Lay, of Ochelata. “We are blessed to open the Cooweescoowee Health Center in Washington County. This is one of the reasons I became a Tribal Councilor. A Cherokee Nation tribal-owned facility, built with tribal funding from our Cherokee businesses, this facility will help to provide our people of the North end equal access to health care. When we put our money into our peoples’ health care, it is a great achievement for the Cherokee Nation.”

The health center opens to patients later this month. The health center in Bartlesville will close at that time.

“We’re very excited to expand our health services to the Ochelata community,” Connie Davis, executive director of Cherokee Nation Health Services, said. “The Bartlesville Health Center has won numerous awards at the national level under Medical Director Dr. Sharon Little’s leadership, and I’m confident she will bring that same quality of care with her to this new facility.”

The Bartlesville Health Center serviced 23,000 patient visits in 2014. The new health center has 10 exam rooms and offers family medicine, full lab services, optometry, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy with drive-thru, radiology, disease prevention and more.

“The local community is small, about 420 people, so this new infrastructure is a big deal,” said Cooweescoowee Health Center Administrator Brandi Payton. “The community is very proud of what the Cherokee Nation is doing in Ochelata.”

The Cooweescoowee Health Center is the first new health facility completed under a $100 million health care improvement plan using casino profits announced in March 2013. A new health center in Jay and expansions at Wilma P. Mankiller in Stilwell and Redbird Smith in Sallisaw will open soon. The groundbreaking for a new facility addition at W.W. Hastings Hospital will take place May 14.

Cherokee Nation Construction Resources, a wholly owned company of the Cherokee Nation, managed construction of the project. Selser Schaefer Architects designed the facility.

A list of family names from the 1880 census for the Cooweescoowee District is etched along a hallway, and a map of the district is built into another wall showing the original land allotments for Washington, Nowata and portions of Rogers counties.

Cherokee Nation Health Services operates the largest tribally run health system in the country with 1.1 million patient visits in 2014. It consists of eight health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah.