"If you drive through Plummer, Idaho too fast, you can blink and miss it. The biggest thing here is the Benewah Medical Center. Executive Director Ginger Carpenter's office there is adorned with photos of the facility's humble beginnings.
Ginger Carpenter : "In 1987, the clinic was this building, it was a condemned building...and a doctor came once a week for an afternoon and saw patients, and a dentist came once a month."
Today, the Benewah Medical Center is a multi-building complex. Its staff includes eight doctors and three dentists. It also has a mental health program, diabetes unit and fitness center. It's the only medical service on the Coeur d'Alene Indian reservation, which has suffered from chronic poverty for generations.
Ernie Stensgar: "We got tired of not having quality healthcare."
Ernie Stensgar is Vice Chairman of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. About 20 years ago, as Chairman, he headed-up the tribe's efforts to build its own clinic.
Ernie Stensgar: "As we thought through this and looked at money that was available, which was hardly any ...we also discovered that people living with us, and amongst us, were suffering from the same inadequate healthcare that we were, long distances to travel, poor healthcare in general, and so we, why don't we collaborate?"
So the tribe signed an unusual agreement with the City of Plummer, opening this clinic to non-natives. Now, Benewah Medical Center patients are almost evenly divided between native and non-native. About half of the clinic's funding comes from the federal government-Indian Health Service, or IHS."
Get the Story:
Tribal Health Clinic Succeeds By Treating Non-Natives Too
(Spokane Public Radio 7/20)