Coquille Tribe’s new health clinic, Ko-Kwel Wellness Center-Eugene, is officially open. The tribal-run clinic is the only culturally specific medical clinic available to an estimated 6,000 Native American and Alaskan Natives in Lane County, more than half of whom are enrolled in Medicaid.
“I am so happy the Coquille Tribe’s new clinic is able to provide essential health care services to all American Indians and Alaska Natives, with zero out-of-pocket cost,” Jason Younker, chief of the Coquille Indian Tribe, said in an announcement of the opening.
The chief, a University of Oregon faculty member, is one of dozens of Coquille Tribal members in Lane County. Many Coquille tribe members’ families resettled in the area after being driven from their traditional homeland on Oregon’s south coast.
The new clinic serves all tribal patients regardless of insurance status or financial ability. Members of federally recognized tribes pay nothing for services provided on-site. Family members of American Indians and Alaska Natives also are accepted on a case-by-case basis, as the clinic is adding insurance companies to its roster.
The tribe already runs the The Ko-Kwel Wellness Center in Coos Bay, which was completed in 2021, and replaced its much smaller Community Health Center, allowing space for an expanded menu of services and a holistic approach to wellness.
Also in 2021, after a decade of hoping to open a clinic in the area, the tribe purchased a 13,000-square-foot space on River Road in the Santa Clara area of Eugene with $900,000 from the Indian Community Development Block Grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The clinic’s outreach evokes the spirit of potlatch, an ancestral tradition of hospitality and sharing, the announcement said.
“The Coquille have long been known for their generosity to their citizens, but also to the communities that surround us,” Younker said.
The wellness center is dedicated to offering care that is in tune with Native cultures and sensitive to the trauma that has been inflicted on many generations of Native families.
The clinic team is led by Tia Cloke and Antonia Perez, family nurse practitioners with strong clinical experience with doctoral degrees in nursing practice. Cloke previously worked in a rural clinic in Blue River. After a wildfire destroyed the clinic, she cared for patients in a vacant restaurant. Perez previously cared for Afghan refugees in Austin, Texas. In addition to being a licensed family nurse practitioner, she is enrolled in Johns Hopkins University’s psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program.
Along with primary medical care, the clinic offers on-site tests such as COVID-19, rapid-strep and rapid-flu, as recommended by the patient’s health care provider. Some mail-order prescriptions are available through the Ko-Kwel Wellness Center’s pharmacy in Coos Bay. Referrals are available for specialty care. The clinic plans to add pediatric care in the near future and mental/behavioral health services in 2024.
Ko-Kwel Wellness Center-Eugene is at 2401 River Road, Suite 101, in Santa Clara Square. To enroll as a patient, call 541-916-7025. For more information, go to kokwelwellness.org/kwc-eugene.
Contact reporter Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick at [email protected] or 541-521-7512, and follow her on Twitter @TatianaSophiaPT. Want more stories like this? Subscribe to get unlimited access and support local journalism.