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Oyate Health Center ushering in a new era of health care

Victoria Wicks

The Oyate Health Center has assumed all health care responsibilities from the Indian Health Service's Rapid City Service Unit at Sioux San Hospital, which primarily serves members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

The Oyate Health Center is a tribally managed clinic that is operated by the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board.

In 2019, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe contracted with the health board to assume and manage the tribes’ portion of services and programs at the Rapid City Service Unit.

During this time, IHS continued to provide health care services using funding from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s tribal shares. In 2021, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe contracted with the health board, giving the board authority to assume full operations of the Rapid City Service Unit.

“We welcome this opportunity to participate in the transition from federal to tribal program operations on behalf of IHS beneficiaries in the Rapid City area,” said IHS Acting Deputy Director Elizabeth Fowler. “We are confident the Oyate Health Center will continue to provide excellent health care to patients throughout the Great Plains Area.”

Brandon Ecoffey is the spokesperson for the health board. He says it will continue to expand services by building on the work that has already begun, such as the need to address mental health.

“We did a community needs assessment in Rapid City and kind of the overwhelming request was for an expansion of behavioral health,” said Ecoffey, “and so now we went from three to 17 and now with Rosebud coming on, we'll be at 19 providers.”

Along with meeting the current health needs of the Rapid City Native American community, the new Oyate Health Center facility that is under construction will address other long-term health goals.

“The ultimate goal is for this facility to be self-sustaining,” said Ecoffey. “We don't have to refer our relatives out to Monument or to Avera, but to be able to build that in-house to capacity, which also builds community capacity and generates economic development within the community and leads to an overall better health care experience for tribal members.”

Over 60% of the Indian Health Service's appropriation funding from Congress is administered by tribes through the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act or self-governance contracts. This gives tribes the control to identify and meet the specific needs of their members.