New Indigenous-run health clinic opens in Pioneer Square
A new Indigenous-run health clinic opened Thursday afternoon in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, integrating traditional Indian healing practices with comprehensive medical, pharmaceutical, behavioral health and addiction treatment services.
The 3,000 square foot clinic located at 122 Second Ave. S., nestled near the corner of Yesler Way, adds to the options available for culturally appropriate health care, following years of work by the Seattle Indian Health Board, Chief Seattle Club and a number of community and community partners. municipal and state elected officials. Clinic leaders hope the space will invite both Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients, they said Thursday.
“Our community has been so disenfranchised by government departments for too long,” Chief Seattle Club executive director Derrick Belgarde said at the grand opening. “We know it takes a culturally appropriate approach to meet the needs of our people and our community. … Aboriginal people are empowering themselves to serve Aboriginal people. We know what works for our communities.
He continued in a statement, “For our members, having food, shelter and medicine under one roof, brought to them by their own people, is a dream come true.”
The clinic will also offer case management services to address housing and food insecurity needs, among other needs. Additionally, a mobile van will provide weekly dental services, according to clinic officials.
“We will have the option of doing certain ceremonies, such as talking circles, a sweat lodge, drumming [in addition to primary care and other services]said Esther Lucero, president and CEO of the Seattle Indian Health Board, in an interview this week. “Those kinds of things are really at the heart of well-being in our communities.”
She continued, “[Federally-run, Native] boarding schools were designed to strip us of our traditional practices. It’s reinserting that into the culture of our community. … And for non-Natives, we’ve found that our ceremonies can be just as soothing.
The space, which is located on the ground floor of the Chief Seattle Club’s ?ál?al (pronounced all-all and means “home” in Lushootseed) building, welcomes patients with puffs of cedar and walls lined with soft grass. A series of hallways connect a pharmacy, medical lab, patient exam rooms and space for telehealth appointments, said site manager Alesia Torres.
The clinic will be run by two full-time providers, two medical assistants and a nurse, able to take patients regardless of their insurance status.
Because it shares a building with the Chief Seattle Club, which provides food, housing assistance, legal services and other supports to members of the urban Native community, patients will also have access to resources from the club,” Lucero said.
“Today is an important day for urban Indians in Seattle,” said Seattle City Council President Debora Juarez, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe. “This clinic is an example of the impact of community collaboration on the lives of our people.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Deputy Mayor Greg Wong and Auburn City Council Member Chris Stearns also spoke at the opening.
Earlier this year, Murray secured $1 million in federal funding to help complete construction of the ?ál?al building. She also secured $5 million in federal funding in the fiscal year 2023 appropriations bill that she is working to pass this year, to support the ongoing work of the Seattle Indian Health Board.
The Seattle Indian Health Board, whose main clinic is based in the Chinatown International District, launched a new intensive outpatient program in January for people dealing with substance abuse and other behavioral health issues. The council plans to expand these services to the new Pioneer Square location, as well as a Lake City location in September.
On Thursday, clinic leaders and elected officials cheered as Lucero, Belgarde, Juarez and Murray cut a big red ribbon in front of the clinic’s entrance. This is just the beginning of what they hope will become a trend toward this clinic model, Lucero said.
“We hoped that we would be a model for other communities of color of what it looks like not to compete with each other,” Lucero said. “Standing with the community to better meet the needs of our people.”