STILWELL, Okla. — Cherokee Nation broke ground Tuesday at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center for an 80,000-square-foot expansion to modernize the facility originally built in 1994.

The health center in Stilwell is named in honor of the late Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller, the first female elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

“Every one of us here today is part of an unbroken chain, a people who overcame challenges, believed in each other, a people of grit and determination. It links generations and here we are today to add something more to that chain -- to break ground on the expansion of the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center named in honor of a strong leader,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “In the past 50 years we have been in an increasingly strong position to do something important for our people, making health care more accessible. Today we are celebrating a $30 million expansion that will open access to health care, do something for our people and stimulate growth in the local economy as we expand and build onto this facility.”

The expansion is slated for completion in 2021 and will increase the overall size of the facility to approximately 110,000 square feet. Included in the expansion will be a second story, which will house dental and other health services.

“Great things are on the horizon for Cherokee health care,” said District 8 Tribal Councilor Shawn Crittenden. “I’m excited that progress is being made on the reconstruction. I look forward to the departments affected, including dental, to reopen and continue their contribution to improving the lives of Cherokees in Adair County.”

Services in the new portion of the facility will include dental, optometry, pharmacy expansion, a conference and community room, behavioral health, WIC, pediatrics, physical therapy, primary care, specialty care, public health nursing, medical records and administration.

In recent years, the health center has become one of the top three busiest of the Cherokee Nation’s nine health centers, experiencing a 10 percent increase in patient visits annually. In 2019, the health center had more than 130,000 ambulatory care visits and around 200,000 pharmacy visits.

“I’m excited and grateful for this expansion, which will mean more access to quality care for the citizens in Adair County,” said District 7 Tribal Councilor Canaan Duncan. “It also gives the employees the proper tools and environment to continue being successful.”

Along with the facility expansion, a new and larger parking area will provide an elevated drop off for patients.

“The expanded Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center will offer access to more services, better testing and shorter wait times for our citizens,” said Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “We have outgrown the original facility and have needed this upgrade, so it is a real blessing to have the Cherokee Nation health care system growing to meet the needs of our citizens. Making investments such as this will positively impact the community of Stilwell as it creates new health care jobs, as well as construction jobs, all while honoring such a great Cherokee leader in former Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller.”

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