GREAT FALLS — Work is underway on a $23 million Wellness Center in Poplar.
A news release from MoFi this week says that the facility will address a disparity in life expectancy among members of the Fort Peck Tribes, and received funding through the Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) program.
Construction on the 50,000-square-foot facility began in June 2020 and is expected to be complete in early 2022.
The center is being designed to promote health through every stage of life, providing services for healthcare, physical fitness, childcare, and cultural arts and education. The new center is expected to create 70 full-time equivalent jobs with benefits, many of which will be available to low-income people.
The Fort Peck Wellness Center is the culmination of an effort that began in 2001, when local high school students, in partnership with Harvard Medical School, began studying the underlying issues causing a disparity in life expectancy among members of the Fort Peck Tribes. The average life expectancy of an individual living on the Fort Peck Reservation is 59 years, compared to 78.5 years for the state of Montana and nationwide.
In the years following the study, a small wellness center was created in Poplar and school-based programs provide children with health care services. The new building will replace the smaller center and will include a healthcare clinic with medical, dental, and therapy rooms, and offices for providers.
The center will also feature telemedicine rooms with an on-site nurse to allow patients to get exams over videoconference with specialized providers that aren’t available on the Reservation. A pool, gym and workout equipment will encourage physical fitness, while cultural arts, education and dance programs will foster tribal traditions. A childcare facility will also be available.
MoFi also says the new wellness center will revitalize the old airport site off U.S. Highway 2 that the tribes have designated for redevelopment.
Financing came together through investment from the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and New Markets Tax Credits from the community development lender MoFi.
“Communities thrive when folks have a place to gather, and the Fort Peck Wellness Center will help keep folks in Poplar and across Fort Peck healthy while providing a venue to meet the physical, emotional and cultural needs of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes,” said U.S. Senator Jon Tester. “I’m grateful for MoFi’s work to secure the New Markets Tax Credits and ensure this project has the critical funding it needs to be successful, and I look forward to seeing the completed project once it’s finished.”
“I’m glad to see investment in our tribal communities that will allow the Fort Peck Wellness Center to better serve the Poplar community. This new facility will support jobs and the long-term health and wellness of the Fort Peck Tribes,” said U.S. Senator Steve Daines. “I will continue to fight for permanent extension of the New Markets Tax Credit, so we can see continued investment in Indian Country.”
MoFi President Dave Glaser said the project aligns perfectly with the NMTC program’s goals. “The Fort Peck Wellness Center shows how New Markets Tax Credits can enable and even amplify the long-term plans and visions of communities facing critical hurdles to development,” he said. “What began as a student-led study 20 years ago will soon be a comprehensive health clinic and recreation center that will help address health disparities and build communitywide well-being.”
“The Fort Peck Wellness Center will do much more than just address physical well-being,” said Maria Bustria-Glickman, senior vice president with USBCDC, the tax credit and community development subsidiary of U.S. Bank. “It will positively impact the overall fabric of life on the Fort Peck Reservation. This is one of the reasons why the NMTC program is so important – it provides a unique opportunity for us to invest in economic development projects that can help build thriving communities.”