Tribal-group funds will help Whittier reopen clinic

Posted: Thursday, August 08, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Whittier will reopen its medical clinic with the help of a remote tribal health organization.

The Eastern Aleutian Tribes received federal grant money to turn the town's clinic into a community health center.

Whittier has been without a physician since early July, when Dr. William Cooper resigned his position. Cooper, from Soldotna, had been making regular medical visits to the town. His departure forced the closure of the clinic and left residents relying on emergency medical services or traveling to Anchorage for care.

But city leaders joined the Eastern Aleutian Tribes in its grant application to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Chris Devlin, executive director of Eastern Aleutian Tribes, said the grant has been approved.

Devlin expects the clinic to reopen in a few weeks. As a community health center, Whittier's clinic will receive federal aid to care for underserved people, he said. This type of center caters to areas where access to primary health care is limited for economic, geographic or cultural reasons.

Whittier is on west side of Prince William Sound, 75 miles southeast of Anchorage. It is not part of the Aleutian chain and Devlin said he doesn't know how many Whittier residents are from the Aleutian villages. Matt Rowley, city manager for Whittier, said his city of 182 full-time residents has only a small Native population.

Devlin said his nonprofit health organization has experience operating clinics. The organization operates clinics that serve all communities in the Aleutians East Borough and in Adak, which is not a traditional Native community. Adak's health care system needed help last year, and the Eastern Aleutian Tribes took control, Devlin said.

The tribal health organization applied for an annual grant that will set aside $300,000 of federal money to operate the Whittier facility. Any remaining costs will be picked up by the city of Whittier, he said.

Devlin said the new clinic will be run by a community health aide and a mid-level practitioner, which is either a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant.

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