The new Valley Native Primary Care Center (VNPCC) in Wasilla will open its doors on Aug. 29, two months ahead of schedule and only 16 months after breaking ground. This new facility, with 17 times the square footage of the current one, is the most recent example of a CIRI nonprofit responding to the changing needs of Alaska’s Native people.
The Alaska Native and American Indian population of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough has been growing fast. Southcentral Foundation (SCF), which owns the center, expects to have 8,500 customer-owners by next year.
Dedicated to improving the health and well-being of Alaska’s Native people, SCF, a CIRI-affiliated nonprofit, will operate the center with federal Indian Health Service (IHS) funding. SCF worked with the Knik Tribal Council and the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council in developing this $56 million facility. The new center’s name, Benteh Nuutah, meaning “among the lakes, among the islands,” honors the Dena’ina and Ahtna Athabascan people.
The new building’s striking, crescent-shaped front has floor-to-ceiling windows that bathe the center’s lobby in natural light. A fire-circle gathering area, a walking path and an outdoor children’s play area, funded by the Mat-Su Health Foundation, should be completed by the end of August.
The current center, which opened in 2005, offers primary care and some behavioral health services in a leased, 5,500-square-foot space in a Wasilla strip mall. Initially, these same services will be offered at the new 93,650 square-foot facility, with the addition of radiology and pharmacy services. Dentistry, optometry, audiology, laboratory and expanded behavioral health care will be phased in as operational funding becomes available through the Joint Venture Construction Program agreement with IHS. In addition, plans call for a Wellness Center that will eventually include fitness machines, physical therapy space and an aerobics studio.
“We made a promise to our Alaska Native and American Indian customer-owners in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley that we would build a primary care center that would be capable of supporting their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness,” said Dr. Kevin Gottlieb, SCF’s chief of staff and vice president of Resource and Development.
In June the Rasmuson Foundation’s Board of Directors awarded a grant to SCF to equip and furnish a 21-chair dental clinic. The Rasmuson Foundation works as a catalyst to promote a better life for Alaskans.
The new center is located at the intersection of Knik-Goose Bay Road and Palmer-Wasilla Highway. The current center in the Creekside Plaza is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (907) 352-6000.