Tribe plans nursing home near Whiteclay

Published Sunday March 28, 2010
BY NANCY HICKS
LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR

The Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Tribe will build a 60-bed nursing home in Nebraska about a half mile from Whiteclay, the village infamous for the large amount of beer sold there.

There are about 200 elderly tribe members in nursing homes in the Midwest and they want to come home, said Gary Ruse, with D.A. Davidson financial consultants, which is working with the tribe to arrange for financing of the home.

It is expected to create 80-100 jobs, Ruse said.

“Our journey has been long and at times very frustrating. However, with help from past tribal administrations and our friends, we have pierced a lot of red tape,” said Oglala Sioux Tribe President Theresa Two Bulls in a news release announcing the nursing home.

The tribe hopes to break ground in late spring or early summer, and construction is expected to be done by the fall of 2011, according to the news release.

This is one of the positive things happening in Whiteclay, said Sen. LeRoy Louden, who represents the area and who is sponsoring a bill (LB1002) that would provide $100,000 in grant money to help with health, economic development or law enforcement in the area.

“Where else in the state are we creating 100 new jobs and with no tax incentives?” Louden asked.

For a number of years, tribal leaders and some Nebraskans have tried to get the state to help clean up Whiteclay or shut down the beer outlets that sell to Natives from the nearby Pine Ridge reservation, where alcohol is not allowed. Louden’s bill is part of that effort.

While most of the Oglala Sioux land is located in South Dakota, the nursing home will be built on part of the 1,000 acres of tribal land located just across the border in Nebraska.

South Dakota has a moratorium on creating more nursing home beds and was unwilling to work with the tribe, Ruse said.

So the tribe worked with Nebraska to build the nursing home instead.

While South Dakota recently passed legislation allowing a nursing home on tribal land, the tribe decided to continue with the Nebraska site because so much work already was finished and Nebraska had been cooperative, said Ruse.

“Nebraska has been willing to help the Oglala Sioux Tribe navigate the stormy sea of federal regulations,” the tribal news release said.

Nebraska’s state Medicaid staff will administer the funds used to pay for care at the home, but the funding will be 100 percent federal, with no state match, said Ron Ross, president of Rural Health Development, a company that helped the tribe with the federal and state agreements necessary to fund the home. His company, which will manage the home, manages 20 nursing homes, including 16 in Nebraska.

The arrangements include agreements with the Indian Health Service, CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), the tribe and the state, Ross said.

Construction will cost an estimated $10 million, he said.

The nursing home will provide employment for the Whiteclay area and will give tribal elders a home closer to relatives, Ross said.

Ross said the nursing college on the Pine Ridge Reservation will help provide a good labor force.

It’s difficult for tribal members who live on the Pine Ridge reservation to see their elders now, based on a feasibility study showing that many seniors were living in nursing homes in South Dakota and Nebraska, said Ross. “Instead of going 1,200 miles to see Grandma, they will be able to go two miles,” he said.

The Omaha tribe has a small tribal nursing home and other Nebraska tribes are interested in opening nursing homes that will care for tribal members, Ross said.

Tribal President Two Bulls and the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council are working on a letter to send to Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, thanking him for his support, according to the news release.

“Our cherished elderly will be able to have their family visit them and bring them joy as they age close to home,” Two Bulls said in the news release.

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