St. George • The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah was almost driven to extinction, first by disease, violence and settlements, then by federal policies meant to end some tribes in the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, just being federally recognized in 1980 shows the Paiute’s resilience. Just 40 years later, the tribe is not only thriving and serving its members, it also is contributing to the health care of its neighbors.
In October, the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah celebrated groundbreaking on a new $6 million health care facility. Known as FourPoints Health, the 25,000 square foot facility replaces an existing smaller building in Cedar City and will open in the fall. It will continue to provide health care access to about 900 enrolled tribal members, citizens from other tribes in the state and nearby rural communities.
FourPoints Health’s status as a federally designated health care center means that anyone can get care at the facility.
FourPoints Health, which has operated over the last 25 years, is considered one of the few tribal federally qualified health centers in the nation, says Tyler Goddard, health director for FourPoints Health.
Rural Utah suffers from a medical, dental and mental health provider shortage. According to a 2019 report, 26 of 29 counties in the state don’t have adequate coverage. FourPoints Health fills a critical role for Iron County, as well as its other locations in Millard, Sevier, and Washington counties. Fees are charged on a sliding scale, depending on need.
Danielle Dubrasky, who is not a member of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, went to the FourPoints Health for two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine when the vaccines first became public last year. At the time the Southwest Utah Public Health Department and the Intermountain Cedar City Hospital both had long waits for the shots, but FourPoints Health could get her in immediately.
“I was very impressed with just the entire process when I went there,” Dubrasky said. “From the registration process to the health care I received and also the follow-up, I received texts which have been very helpful to check on how I am doing.”
Dubrasky is considering using the clinic regularly.
“The tribe’s programs have grown and the needs of the community have grown,” Goddard said, adding that in 2021 there were a total of over 9,600 patient visits among the Cedar City region.
The health center has been able to achieve about 80% COVID-19 vaccine rate among its tribal population, according to Goddard.
To help pay for the $6 million health facility, the tribe received $2 million in funding from the Small Ambulatory Grant under the Indian Health Service’s (IHS) Division of Facilities Planning and Construction. The tribe is one of 14 tribal health centers to get this funding from the Indian Health Service, according to the IHS.
“Small ambulatory health care facilities are an important part of the health care delivery system across Indian Country,” said IHS Acting Director Elizabeth Fowler in a news release. “For years, the IHS Small Ambulatory Program has been helping our tribal partners expand access to quality health care in Native communities, and we look forward to that continuing with this round of funding.”
Other funding sources will come from the Indian Housing Community Development Block Grant Program and current revenue generated from Medicare, Medicaid and other co-payment fees, Goddard said.
As the tribal administrator for the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Shane Parashonts manages the daily operations and functions of the tribal government’s programs and departments, including FourPoints Health. He says that the goal of the new health center is to deliver quality health care to Paiute tribal members and citizens of the Cedar City community, like Dubrasky.
“The pandemic really helped magnify the need for a new clinic here in Cedar City,” Parashonts said.
The tribe’s facility was actually one of the few health centers in the state of Utah that received rapid test machines early in the pandemic, Parashonts said.
“We’re very honored to have this opportunity to build our clinic and really have the potential to help numerous families and individuals in our communities receive the health care that they need,” he added.
Cedar City Mayor Garth Green says that the new health facility is critical to southern Utah, serving communities hundreds of miles away.
“Cedar City is supportive of our Paiute neighbors and the city granted a significant reduction of the impact fee for this new facility,” Green said. “Health care services at the old and now the new facility will be, and always have been, available to the entire community of Cedar City.”