It’s been six years since the Helena Indian Alliance (HIA) moved into the old U.S. Army Reserves Sheridan Hall in Helena.
HIA made the move to get out of their cramped space in the Colorado Building downtown to allow more room for growth.
Business Office Coordinator Kevin Sandoval said they’re already outgrowing the space.
“It’s a good problem to have,” said Sandoval. “We’ve probably had maybe over 12-13 employees at the time when I first came on. Now we’re at a whopping 32 employees right now.”
For the past 50 years HIA has been advocating for and addressing the mental, physical, and social welfare of the Native American population in the Helena Community.
In 2015 HIA became a State-Certified Substance Abuse Counseling Program and opened their doors to everyone in the community.
“At the time our goal was to expand upon our third-party billing,” explained Sandoval. “The reason for that is our Indian Health Service (IHS) money wasn’t growing. So we made is a priority to find third-party resources, primarily Medicaid.”
The 2016 implementation of Medicaid expansion lead to significant growth of insured patients using the Leo Pocha Memorial Clinic, and an increase of more than a half million dollars by 2018.
HIA was then able to expanded services and staff, including nurse practitioners, substance use disorder staff, caseworkers and others.
This past year the clinic saw over 9,000 patient visits.
While that growth is a positive for the organization, Sandoval said there just isn’t room to put anyone else without making some changes.
HIA recently completed a structural assessment of the building and are in the initial stages of considering a $7-10 million expansion.
The clinical side of HIA are only part of the programs the organization offers.
Other services include tobacco prevention, peer support, youth programs and native education in schools.
Rachel Pichardo works as a clinic receptionist at the Leo Pocha Memorial Clinic and was involved in the youth program herself.
“Right now the youth program is geared towards cultural programs. So we teach them how to dance, bead and we do other projects like making slime,” said Pichardo. “It’s open to all kids and just a safe space for them.”
HIA also partners with the Indian Education for All tutors to provide cultural mentoring and perspective.
Sandoval said he didn’t grow up dancing, attending pow wows or other cultural aspects, but thanks to HIA he’s had a chance to connect with that part of his heritage through his children.
“A lot of the stuff I’m involved in is because of my children. They’re dancing and drumming. “I have a desire to dance now, so it might happen,” laughed Sandoval.
More information about the HIA and the programs they offer can be