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Tuesday July 5th 2022

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Red Lake and NACC Set to Open New Healthcare Center

By TINA MONJE

In September of 2020, Red Lake Nation and their affordable housing nonprofit partner, CommonBond Communities, began taking applications for their new Native-centered apartment building, Mino Bimaadiziwin. Today, most of the units are occupied, and they hope to have the building full by late August.

In partnership with Native American Community Clinic (NACC), Red Lake Nation is also gearing up to open the Mino Bimaadiziwin Wellness Center, an onsite health clinic.

Dr. Laurelle Myhra, PhD, LMFT, is an enrolled member of Red Lake Nation, and the new clinic”™s director. According to Myhra, this project, arguably the first of its kind in the nation, has been made possible by the innovative Indigenous leaders who are seated at the planning table. The culmination of “a lot of indigenous people carrying indigenous knowledge and ancestry,” she says, has resulted in this new, one-of-a-kind avenue, through which residents may access housing and healthcare.
This project comes after years of increasing houselessness within the community, and years of community organizing and development among Minnesota tribal leaders, Indigenous outreach workers, and community members at large.

Construction began in the fall of 2019, and moved rapidly through the winter, on a site familiar to the population for whom this development is built to serve. At this site, in December of 2018, Simpson Housing opened the Navigation Center. By the guidance of local Native leadership groups, including Red Lake Nation, American Indian Community Development Center (AICDC) and Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID), this temporary shelter was built in response to the Franklin/Hiawatha encampment, known as the Wall of Forgotten Natives, which quickly grew through the spring and summer of 2018.
The short-lived shelter provided 24/7, low-barrier entrance, where staff helped residents find permanent housing, and access to social services and health care. Many social service agencies visited the shelter to assist those seeking housing; NACC, the shelter”™s neighbor, and clinic to many of its residents, provided harm reduction services and healthcare, until the shelter closed in June of 2019. According to Simpson Housing”™s final Learnings and Outcomes report, of the 176 people who received shelter at the Navigation Center, 67 of them “did not achieve positive housing outcomes.”

Since the Center closed, there have been a number of encampment developments in the neighborhood. Every encampment has been subject to the city”™s ongoing forced eviction efforts, which do not provide safe and viable alternatives for our neighborhood”™s unhoused residents. As a result, residents are repeatedly separated from their communities, and from community based support networks, including healthcare and social services.
Though this neighborhood already boasts two Indigenous-led and -focused healthcare centers (NACC and Indian Health Board), the Mino Bimaadiziwin Wellness Clinic will add an additional, culturally-appropriate, point of entry into healthcare. The clinic is ready to open as soon as their furniture and internet arrives, and Myhra hopes it will “make opportunities for people to heal,” opportunities for people to “see themselves in a place where they couldn”™t see themselves before.”

The clinic will host NACC-operated intensive outpatient treatment (IOP), in addition to medication assisted treatment (MAT) for people who use opiates. They will also offer behavioral health services, a harm reduction meet-up group, and age-specific 12-week White Bison programs for individuals and families. The White Bison program was created by Indigenous people in Colorado Springs, to support sobriety and healing, and it is now used by Indigenous healthcare providers across the country. As Myhra works to secure logistics, clinic staff are preparing by attending an Indigenous Health Toolkit training, a set of cultural and social justice trainings and assessments for nurses and providers, and additional workshops that are geared toward building competency among those caring for this community.

“You have to be innovative when there aren”™t enough resources,” says Myhra. “NACC would never be able to do this on their own, and Red Lake wouldn”™t be able to do this on their own.” She attributes the creativity of this project to the many Indigenous minds that have been working together on this for years. “It”™s really all coming together,” she says. “People are all carrying forth a vision.”

Pending furniture, internet, and NACC staff moving their IOP from the Ancient Trader”™s building up the road into the new space, Myhra hopes to have the clinic open by the end of July.

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