New living facility to help elders stay on Rez

Groundbreaking for Kaibeto Creek Independent

Joseph Engelken, Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation (TCRHCC) CEO; Chris Curly, TCRHCC board president; Franklin Fowler, Kaibeto Creek Inc. president; Guy Mikkelsen, Foundation for Senior Living president/CEO; Kimberly Willims, TCRHCC boardmember; and Lynette Bonar, TCRHCC Assistant CEO break ground on the Kaibeto Creek Independent Living Center June 17. Tyler Tawahongva/NHO

Joseph Engelken, Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation (TCRHCC) CEO; Chris Curly, TCRHCC board president; Franklin Fowler, Kaibeto Creek Inc. president; Guy Mikkelsen, Foundation for Senior Living president/CEO; Kimberly Willims, TCRHCC boardmember; and Lynette Bonar, TCRHCC Assistant CEO break ground on the Kaibeto Creek Independent Living Center June 17. Tyler Tawahongva/NHO

KAIBETO, Ariz. - On June 17 the community of Kaibeto celebrated a groundbreaking for the Kaibeto Creek Independent Living Center. This center will provide elderly citizens living accommodations instead of having to go off the reservation for elderly care.

Not even a windy day could dampen the spirits of the event. This is a project that came about through a unique collaboration of different entities.

"The idea started with the Kaibeto community then they approached the Tuba City Regional Health Care Center with the idea to help collaborate then the Foundation for Senior Living was called on for their expertise in this type of service. It became a three way partnership which was proposed to the Navajo Housing Authority (NHA) which was able to seek funds to start construction of the facility," Kaibeto Creek Inc. President Franklin Fowler said.

Tuba City Regional Healthcare Corporation (TCRHCC) Associate Executive Director Lynette Bonar said it is important to keep the elderly in the community instead of sending them to different facilities off the reservation.

"Many of the elderly go to centers in Payson or Phoenix," she said. "There are plans to build a senior living facility in Tuba City right on the hospital grounds as well in the future."

The center will allow many elderly individuals to continue to live on the reservation. The plan is to build 24 individual units to house elders and caregivers eventually expanding to 36 units. The Kaibeto Chapter donated 15 acres of land off Highway 98 going into Kaibeto. The site sits in a scenic area with views of Navajo Mountain and White Mesa.

According to Chris Curley, Board President for TCRHCC, the facility establishes a precedent for collaboration.

"Kaibeto Creek Inc. approached TCRHCC, who is a fiscal agent that helps allow the center to be built. NHA and Foundation for Senior Living helped with designs and policies," he said. "This is all due to TCRHCC 638 status, which allows us to partner with these entities and build culturally sensitive facilities for our people."

Curley sees this as an example of utilizing the Indian Self Determination Act PL 93-638 to help create these types of facilities. According to Curley, plans are in place to build an outpatient clinic in LeChee and the Bodaway/Gap area as well as continuing services being provided by the Mobile Health clinic.

"This is a precedent to have a model like this that we can build upon the next few years," Curley said.

Guy Mikkelson, president/CEO for Foundation for Senior Living said he is "excited about the partnership and is proud to be a part of the process."

Ramsey Singer, development officer for the Navajo Housing Authority, was instrumental in finding money to start construction on the facility.

"HUD grants are being utilized to build the facility. My dad is from Kaibeto and my grandfather was a councilmember so I spent a lot of time here," Singer said. "He told me to get a good education and bring back the knowledge to the community. I am proud of the Kaibeto community. Now the elderly will not have to live in rough conditions chopping wood going to an outhouse in the freezing cold. With a design team from Albuquerque and Salt Lake City they designed a culturally sensitive facility with views of Navajo Mountain and White Mesa."

Orville Arviso, owner of Arviso Construction, said he has been building on the Navajo Nation for 30 years and this is his first project in Kaibeto. His brother Oran will oversee the construction of the facility expected to be finished in the fall of 2015.

Lynette Bonar, who will become the CEO of TCRHCC next year, spoke to the crowd about how her dad was from Kaibeto and she was told to someday come back to the reservation to help the people. She lived in California for many years but decided to come home and take leadership of the hospital.

"The elderly need to be among their own people to socialize and this facility will allow them to be with their families," Bonar said.

Navajo Tribal Councilmember Duane Tsiniginie is excited about the project.

"This is proof 638 status is successful and works," he said. "I will be going to Washington D.C. for the reauthorization of the status and will tell lawmakers that 638 is working. It is a lot of work but it is a dream come true."

Coconino County Supervisor Lena Fowler used to be on the TCRHCC board.

"This is a long time dream," she said. "This is a much needed service and many elders in Flagstaff say to me they want to go home, that is where they belong."

Plans for the center include a community center for group activities. TCRHCC will provide medical services.

Bonar hopes to find more funding to start construction on a facility in Tuba City and assist in other areas such as Tolani Lake and Bird Springs. Bonar and CEO Joseph Engelken are open to helping other tribes such as the Hopi Tribe in partnering with projects that may help them as well. They would like to see more communication. Curley also would like to see the Hopi Tribe have discussions with TCRHCC to help with projects in their own communities since Moenkopi Village is right across the highway from Tuba City.

Fowler is encouraged by the passion of the people to make this happen.

"In 2004 it was proposed. There has been community support from the start in the planning," Fowler said. "The community wanted to bring the old people home to utilize wisdom and knowledge and carry on the traditions of the Navajo people. This is an example of how we can do things for ourselves instead of relying on the government to make things happen."

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