Construction continues on new Pokagon Clinic in Dowagiac

Published 8:00 am Thursday, May 1, 2014

Construction of the new Pokagon Clinic is coming along smoothly, with the installation of the roof being completed recently. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Construction of the new Pokagon Clinic is coming along smoothly, with the installation of the roof being completed recently. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Despite a few winter-related setbacks, construction on the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi’s new 35,000 square feet health and fitness center is proceeding as planned.

Crews have recently finished another phase of construction, installing the building’s steel topping and roof. The center, which is located near the Pokagon administrative building on Sink Road, is scheduled to be completed by October, replacing the tribe’s existing health care facilities on M-51.

The completion of this portion of construction is the latest milestone in the project, which officially broke ground last October. The new building will provide additional space for the tribe’s 30 health care employees, with space for a medical clinic, a dental suite, a pharmacy, a traditional healing area and behavioral health services.

The building will also serve another need for the tribe’s citizens, by providing an exercise area, a therapy pool and other facilities designed to improve the wellness of patients.

“Our two main priority’s are keeping our people healthy, and presenting them with education and opportunities for them to improve their lives,” said Government Manager Jason M. Wesaw. “This new facility will provide both.”

Wesaw has been the main champion for the project, working with the Pokagon Tribal Council, architect 7GenAE and contractor The Christman Company to see construction through to completion.

Unfortunately, the bitter temperatures and deep frost seen throughout the winter season delayed construction by several weeks, though crews have been working hard since then to get the project back on schedule,
Wesaw said.

“We’re real happy with the progress we’ve made so far,” he said.

Plans for a new health center were devised after the tribe conducted a feasibility study more than a year ago to determine their citizen’s health needs over the next 10 to 15 years, Wesaw said. Providing excellent medical care for their citizens is of particular importance to Pokagon leadership, especially since around 40 percent of their population is uninsured, Wesaw added.

“They deserve the very best health care, and that’s what we’re providing for them,” Wesaw said.

The focus on wellness as well as health was a priority that was mandated by the council, in order to combat issues with diabetes, obesity and heart disease within the tribe, Wesaw said.

“Most of our citizens don’t have a place around here that provides for their wellness needs,” he said.

Another notable feature of the new structure is the fact it will be LEED Gold Certified, like other recent Pokagon construction effort, meaning the building will meet high standards for environmental sustainability.

Even with these forward thinking concepts, the health center will still retain many of the design elements seen in other contemporary Pokagon buildings, including a traditional eastern facing entrance and signature rooftop rotunda.

“It gives the center that cultural feel, to give visitors a sense of belonging to the band,” Wesaw said.