Celebrating the Dena’ina Wellness Center’s grand opening

Decades of planning and anticipation came to a joyful conclusion on June 12 when the Dena’ina Wellness Center celebrated its grand opening in Kenai, Alaska. The new state-of-theart healthcare facility offers integrated health and wellness services, including medical, dental, behavioral health, chemical dependency, physical therapy, lab and X-ray and pharmacy services, all under one roof. Optometry and traditional healing services are planned for the future.

The Kenaitze Indian Tribe (KIT) invited the public to help mark the occasion with a three-day celebration featuring music, drummers, traditional foods, a blessing from Russian Orthodox Bishop David Mahaffey, special speakers and a cloth ceremony. On June 13, CIRI shareholder Joel Isaak unveiled an art installation he designed for the building site called “Luq’a Nagh Ghilghuzht” (Fish Camp), a trio of bronze statues depicting a family gathering and processing fish.

Tours were given of the new 52,000-square-foot facility, which houses 15 exam rooms, four treatment and four consultation rooms, 13 talking rooms, 10 dental operation rooms, six classrooms and a demonstration kitchen that will be used to teach preparation of traditional and healthy foods. Signs throughout the building describe the use of each room, not only in English and Braille, but with Dena’ina translations as well.

After many years of hopeful planning, development of the Wellness Center got a boost when KIT received a highly competitive Indian Health Service (IHS) joint venture award in 2011. Additional funding came from the state and from CIRI and nonprofit organizations. In just two years, the building went from artist’s renderings to reality.

Already, the Dena’ina Wellness Center is providing the Alaska Native and American Indian people of the Kenai Peninsula and surrounding communities with high quality, fully integrated healthcare that will be supported by the IHS award for a minimum of 20 years.

CIRI congratulates the Kenaitze Indian Tribe on the completion and opening of this vital new resource. Dena’ina Wellness Center grand opening ceremony. Courtesy of Kenaitze Indian Tribe.