OMAHA, Neb. — The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska is planning to move its health clinic and administrative offices from Omaha to a campus southwest of the city in an effort to offer health care services to more people.
The Omaha City Council unanimously approved the special permit for the move Feb. 6, the Omaha World-Herald reported. The tribe plans to expand its clinic, add community gathering space and create a ceremonial sweat lodge at the Ralston facility.
“Our people are very excited about this project and what it means for us as a whole … and for the community as a whole,” said Larry Wright Jr., tribal chairman.
The tribe has received initial approval for a grant from the Indian Health Service to fund the project, Wright said.
The tribe has outgrown the 12,000 square feet at its current facility. Tribe officials hope to expand the new site to about 60,000 square feet. The campus will have tribal services office, such as the tribal court. There will also be a clinic offering primary care, behavioral health, physical therapy, dental care, a pharmacy and other services.
Most of the clinic’s patients will be Native American, Wright said.
There are about 12,000 Native Americans living in the Omaha area, Wright estimated. Native Americans come from around the region to receive services from the clinic. The tribe also provides transportation services.
Cabinetmaker Herb Grothe, who works near the new location, has objected to the tribe’s relocation. Grothe is concerned that an open outdoor fire used to heat rocks for the sweat lodge could be a danger. He’s worried that embers from the fire could blow into the highly flammable dust that collects near his cabinet shop.
The tribe will comply with all of the fire department’s safety regulations, Wright said.
“We’re very mindful of that,” Wright said. “We don’t want our property burned down. We don’t want anybody else’s property burned down.”