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A New Approach to Native American Healthcare in Rapid City

RAPID CITY – Installing a new and innovative approach to patient care is a difficult task that the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board (GPTCHB) and the Oyate Health Center (OHC) are ready to take on. 

Two weeks ago, more than fifty community members, staff, and direct service providers working at the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board and Oyate Health Center took part in a redesigned version of the South Central Foundation’s Core Concepts training. 

The introduction of this unique and progressive management model to the staff at the OHC and GPTCHB signifies the beginning of an era of sustained improvement in care for Native American people in Rapid City, according to Jerilyn Church, CEO of the GPTCHB.

The Nuka model is based upon the belief “that the relationship between the primary care team and the patient is the single most important tool in managing chronic disease, controlling health care costs, and improving the overall wellness of a population. Recognizing that individuals are ultimately in control of their own lifestyle choices and health care decisions, Nuka focuses on understanding each customer-owner’s unique story, values, and influencers in an effort to engage them in their care and support long-term behavior change,” says the Southcentral Foundation on its website. 

All employees working under the Oyate Health Center and the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board will attend this training by the end of 2020. So far, approximately 40% of those employed by these two entities have been introduced to the Nuka model through the Core Connections training.  

The first workshop took place in August and focused on leadership teams and administrators from both the OHC and the GPTCHB. This most recent training brought in those who provide direct service to our relatives. 

The Southcentral Foundation’s Nuka System of Care is recognized as one of the world’s leading models of health care redesign and a recipient of the 2011 and 2017 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award –the nation’s only presidential award for performance excellence and innovation. 

Staff members who attended the training were quick to provide positive feedback about their experience.

“The Core Concepts Training provided by SCF taught me how to connect with people on an emotional level. I was brought up to leave your baggage at the door and pick it back up when you leave work, but this training showed me that you can be vulnerable with your co-workers and how to have healthy, productive conversations with them. It showed me areas of my communication that I needed to improve on and gave me the tools and safe place to practice those skills, said Chad Ratigan, PRC Director for the Oyate Health Clinic. “I feel that I have grown leaps and bounds over the course of 3 days and I feel confident in the fact that I can utilize these tools moving forward. I am excited to utilize what I learned in the workplace and my personal life and I am grateful that GPTCHB sponsored this training for myself and our employees,” he added.

The introduction of the Nuka model was made possible by the decision of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to take over management responsibilities of the Rapid City Service Unit from the federal government through the 638-contracting process.

This exercise of tribal sovereignty and self-determination is part of a trend where tribal-nations are taking control over mismanaged federal programs that were designed to provide services to Native American people.