Coeur d’Alene Tribe leads the way in rural healthcare with innovative center

PLUMMER, Idaho. — Charlotte Nilson was walking through life in the shadow of grief.

“When I was first diagnosed with depression, I denied it,” Nilson said.

At first, Nilson felt labelled by needing to see a behavioral health specialist. Her doctor at Marimn Health helped her to understand why it would be good for her to get that help.

“There’s a stigma about it so you don’t even want to address the fact of behavioral issues,” Nilson said.

So many others face that same challenge, especially among native communities. Research suggested that native people are disproportionately burdened by mental health problems and other health issues.

In Plummer, there’s a place to get help. Marimn Health Center has been part of the North Idaho community for decades. The collaboration between the Tribe and the City of Plummer is believed to be the first joint venture in the United States between a tribe and city municipality to provide healthcare to residents for all reasons. The demand for services has been so great, the facility has expanded over the years into its current space, which is a 50,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility.

Tribal Elder Justine Vincent cuts the ribbon at the Grand Opening of the Benewah Medical Center Courtesy: Marimn Health

“With the help of Marimn Health, I was able to understand and become more aware of the issues that a person suffers from,” Nilson said.

While the health center has expanded since its first inception, one thing has remained the same. Staff are committed to healing the mind, body and spirit, according to operations director Marquette Hendrickx .

“We feel it is very important to treat the whole person so we have services all under one roof,” Hendrickx said.

That includes medical, dental, optometry, behavioral health and other outreach programs. Everyone is welcome at Marimn Health and Hendrickx said no one is turned away if they can’t pay for the treatment they need. It is a federally qualified community health center, which means that eligible patients can receive services on a sliding fee scale.

This system has evolved over the years to become an integral part in serving the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and entire North Idaho community. Hendrickx said their legacy has extended well beyond their small town of about 1,000 people. She said other communities across the nation have looked to Marimn Health for guidance.

“We have a lot of pride in just knowing that other tribes, other health facilities, other community health centers are looking to us to really pave the way in integrated care,” Hendrickx said.

Another unique aspect of Marimn Health is that providers balance innovative techniques with tribal traditions.woman smiling

“They are so open to a lot of our traditions and cultures and they continue to listen and provide direction,” Nilson said.

That community connection coupled with a caring attitude helped Nilson take her next steps toward a healthier life. She shared her story in the spirit of hoping that it will help others find the care they need, even when they don’t want to accept the fact that they need help.

“Don’t procrastinate on your mental health. Get help as soon as you need it and as soon as you recognize that you’re not feeling right or something is wrong because there are so many options here,” Nilson said.

Hendrickx said even more opportunities are in the works to expand programs in the coming years, too.

Courtesy: Marimn Health

A new Youth and Family Recreation Center on in Worley is in the works. It will provide a larger place for families on the reservation to go to gather, learn and have fun. Last fall, Marimn Health partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Kootenai County to bring the programs to the reservation Friday and Saturday nights. It’s been a resounding success, which is why plans are underway to expand operations with a new space dedicated to youth programs.

Tune in to 4 News Now Friday at 7 PM for a half hour special focused on addiction, mental health and hope in the state of Idaho.