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Last month, the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board opened the Oyate Health Center at the Sioux San campus. The Indian Health Service fully supports tribal self-governance and self-determination, and welcomes the opportunity to participate in this transition from federal to tribal program operations on behalf of IHS beneficiaries in the Rapid City area. Eligible American Indians and Alaska Natives will now receive health care services in two locations on the Sioux San campus.

The opening of the health center comes after the three tribes primarily served by the IHS Rapid City Service Unit, also known as Sioux San, each exercised its right to self-determination. For the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe, this took the form of authorizing the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board to operate the Oyate Health Center to provide services to tribal members in Rapid City on their behalf. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe chose to continue to have health care services provided directly by the IHS. This is also an exercise of tribal self-determination. The IHS recognizes that tribal leaders and members are best situated to make decisions regarding their health care.

Recognizing some apprehension and acknowledging rumors in the community about the availability of services, I want to make clear that IHS remains committed to ensuring health care for all American Indians and Alaska Natives is available in the Rapid City metropolitan area. We continue to work with the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board to provide a smooth transition and ensure the continued availability of comprehensive, quality health care for our patients.

The IHS will continue to directly operate an outpatient clinic on the second floor of the Sioux San building, providing health services in Rapid City to anyone who is eligible for IHS service. Services available from the IHS will include family medicine, pediatric care, women's health, geriatric care, behavioral health, social services, optometry, pharmacy, dentistry, laboratory and radiology.

Urgent care services for all patients eligible for IHS services will be provided by the Oyate Health Center. Both the IHS and the Oyate Health Center will operate programs to pay for services provided outside of the Indian health system, in emergencies or when necessary services are not available, subject to eligibility and notification requirements.

The IHS is also engaged in the ongoing procurement for the construction of a new outpatient facility on the Sioux San campus. We will continue to keep our tribal partners, patients, and the community informed as we move forward with this important project.

I want to thank the American Indian community in Rapid City for their patience as we work alongside the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board to provide access to care for all patients.

Anyone with questions about available services, eligibility, or any other concerns, is welcome to call the main line at (605) 719-4000 or the appointment line at (605) 719-4001.

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James Driving Hawk is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the director of the Great Plains Area of the Indian Health Service, with administrative responsibility for 19 IHS service units consisting of seven hospitals and 10 health centers.

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