HELENA — Helena Indian Alliance leaders say they’ve been outgrowing their current building for years. Now they’re taking a big step toward expanding that space.
On Friday, the organization held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new addition. Over the next year, part of the parking lot on the building’s west side will be transformed into new space for the Leo Pocha Memorial Clinic.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Mike Touchette, chair of the HIA board.
The clinic provides primary care, screenings, substance abuse treatment and more. The new space will include six exam rooms, offices and more.
HIA executive director Todd Wilson said they have been looking at expanding since he took over the position five years ago. Their workforce has more than doubled over that time, from around 18 employees to more than 40.
“It’s really taken on the additional task of not just providing good services – great services for our community – but providing the space for our workers to perform their tasks,” said Wilson.
They’ve dealt with disruptions like COVID and the rising cost of materials, but Touchette said prices have begun to go back down, allowing them to finalize their plans.
Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins was one of the community leaders on hand to mark the occasion.
“I am so happy you have outgrown your growing pains, because we’re happy to see this project finally taking off,” he said.
Wilson says the new clinic will cost about $2.2 million to build – much of it coming from HIA’s contract with Indian Health Services, as well as from their general fund. The Montana Healthcare Foundation also provided funding for their planning process.
Golden Eagle Construction is authorized to begin work on the addition as soon as the end of this month. They’re expected to complete the work by late spring or early summer 2023.
Wilson said this is only the first phase of a bigger plan to expand HIA’s services. After the new clinic is built, he hopes they’ll eventually be able to use the current clinic space to offer dental care.
Leaders say the expansion goes along with their goal to serve all of the Helena community.
“We are open to everyone – we see all demographics, not just our native patients – but we don’t want to forget where we came from, and that’s to service our Native American population as well,” Wilson said. “We welcome everyone through our doors, and we will service you in the best way we can.”